A Sampling of Philadelphia’s Colonial Foods

Sally Lunn Bread – A large sponge cake-like bread, more like a bread than a cake that is either yeast or baking powder based. .

— Ronit Treatman 

Philadelphia, the city of almonds, pomegranates, olive oil, chick peas, lentils, dates, grapes, and fava beans? Thanks to the Jews who first settled the North American colonies, Philadelphia was blessed with the introduction of these Mediterranean foods. It is fun to recreate colonial recipes today in order to experience the flavors and aromas of those times and connect with an often overlooked period of the Philadelphia Jewish experience.

More after the jump.

The first Jews arrived in this area before the land was deeded to William Penn in 1682. These were Portuguese Jews who had fled the Spanish Inquisition. The first place they settled was Recife, Brazil, while it was a Dutch colony. When the Portuguese conquered Brazil from the Dutch, bringing the Inquisition with them, the Jews moved to North America. First they went to Dutch New Amsterdam (New York). Subsequently Jews migrated from New Amsterdam and settled in Philadelphia to trade furs with the Native Americans. When King George deeded the land to William Penn, the latter embarked on his “holy experiment,” creating a colony where anyone who lived peacefully was welcome. The Jews stayed.

Colonial American food was a combination of English, French, and West Indian food. Local ingredients were incorporated into the diet. Benjamin Franklin encouraged people to eat corn, turkey, and other Native American foods in order to cease their dependence on British exports. Confectionery was very well developed in Philadelphia. It had the best ice cream in America!

Pepper Pot Soup. .

One of the most accessible and popular dishes of the time was pepper pot soup from the Caribbean. This was a one-pot meal made with inexpensive meat, seasonal vegetables, and hot peppers. George Washington served it to his troops after crossing the Delaware River to attack Trenton in 1776. For those who wish to try this at home, Mrs. Esther Levy gives a recipe for pepper pot soup in her Jewish Cookery Book, the first Jewish cookbook published in the United States, in Philadelphia in 1871. Below is an adaptation for the modern kitchen.

Visiting Historic Philadelphia is fun and interesting. Recreating the meals of the colonists is a hands-on way to connect with the past. As they say in Ladino, buen provecho–with good enjoyment!

Pepper Pot Soup

From Mrs. Esther Levy’s Jewish Cookery Book and Historic Cold Spring Villagerecipe collection

Meat

  • 3 quarts water
  • 2 onions diced
  • 2 green peppers diced
  • 4 potatoes peeled and diced
  • 3 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 dried hot pepper or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef
  • 1 1/2 pounds lamb
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • Parsley, thyme, bay leaf

Place all the ingredients in a pot and stew over a low flame for about two hours until very tender.

Sally Lunn Bread

From Mrs. Esther Levy's Jewish Cookery Book and www.cooksrecipes.com. Dairy or Pareve

A favorite yeast bread that arrived in Philadelphia from England was Sally Lunn bread. It is still served at the City Tavern, where Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams congregated. It was traditionally served with clotted cream.

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  1. Dissolve the yeast in warmed milk. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Mix butter, sugar, salt, eggs, flour, and milk/yeast mixture.
  3. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
  4. Beat down and let rise again for 45 minutes.
  5. Spoon batter into a lightly greased and floured 9-inch pan.
  6. Bake at 350*F for 35 to 40 minutes.
Chamin – an early Sephardic dish. .

Chamin

Meat

From www.myjewishlearning.com and Sephardic Israeli Cuisine: A Mediterranean Mosaic.

The earliest Jewish food in Philadelphia was Sephardic. The Jews brought olive oil and almonds from the Mediterranean to Spain and Portugal. They introduced these ingredients to the cuisine of the New World. In Philadelphia, local fish was fried in olive oil, not lard. This became known as “Jew fish,” and was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson. Almonds were baked into a pudding. The Jewish Sabbath stew, Chamin, made with beef, beans, and onions was also introduced. To replicate a Colonial Sephardic Shabbat meal, one should cook Chamin.

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 beef bones with marrow
  • 3 pounds brisket or chuck roast, cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 pounds small potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 4 to 6 large eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees F
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil and sauté the onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Add the chickpeas, bones, meat, potatoes, honey, paprika, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, turmeric, saffron, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Add enough water to cover, place the unshelled eggs in the center, and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer for 1 hour. Skim off the foam occasionally.
  4. Cover the pot tightly, place in the oven, and cook overnight, or cook on low on the stove for 5 to 6 hours, or until meat is tender and done.
  5. In the morning, after cooking all night, check the water level. If there is too much water, turn the oven up to 250°F or 300°F, cover, and continue cooking. [If cooking over Shabbat, traditionally observant Jews would refrain from changing the heat level, for doing so would run counter to Sabbath laws against manipulating flame and cooking.] If there is no water, add another cup, cover, and continue cooking.
  6. To serve, place the chickpeas and cooking liquid in one bowl, and the eggs, potatoes, and meat in separate bowls.
Almond pudding.

Almond Pudding

Pareve

From the New York Times, “Food, Passover Hand-Me-Downs,” by Joan Nathan

One of the most authentic Portuguese Jewish foods is almond pudding. It is the perfect dessert to serve at the Shabbat dinner.

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup ground blanched almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • Oil for the pan
  • matza meal for the pan
  • 1 pint strawberries or 1 cup strawberry puree
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Beat the egg yolks until foamy. Add the sugar, almonds, and almond extract.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff.
  4. Fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture.
  5. Pour into an 8-inch oven safe dish, which has been oiled and dusted with matza meal.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool slightly.
  8. Top with strawberries or strawberry puree and serve.

Ronit Treatman was born in Israel and grew up in Ethiopia and Venezuela. She is fluent in five languages, and volunteered for the IDF where she served in the Liaison Unit to Foreign Forces. She currently lives in the Germantown section of Philadelphia with her husband and three children.

Judith’s Hanukkah Cheese Pastries

— by Ronit Treatman

There is a tradition of eating dairy meals to celebrate Hanukkah.  How did this custom come about?  During Hanukkah, we honor Judith, a brave heroine whose name means, “Praised” or “Jewess” in Hebrew.  During the Assyrian siege of Judah, 500 years before the time of the Maccabbees, she used beauty, wit, cheese, and wine to fight for her right to be a free Jewish woman in Jerusalem.  Judith inspired the Maccabees to fight the Seleucids until they achieved victory.  We honor her by preparing seductive dairy delicacies for our Hanukkah feasts.

Judith was a beautiful, young widow who lived in the fictional village of Bethulia (thought to symbolize Jerusalem).  The Assyrian general Holofernes besieged her town.  He succeeded in cutting off the water supply to Bethulia’s inhabitants.  Judith went to visit Holofernes in the Assyrian camp, bearing gifts of wine and cheese.  Holofernes overindulged to the point of inebriation.  Judith took advantage of his weakness, and decapitated him with his own sword.  In a shrewd bit of psychological warfare, she carried his head around the Assyrian camp.  His soldiers, terrified and bereft of their leader, fled.  

More after the jump.
We honor Judith’s bravery with the tradition of eating dairy meals during Hanukkah.  The type of milk available to her in Ancient Israel came from sheep and goats.  This Hanukkah, we can celebrate with a traditional Mediterranean shepherd’s dish: pastries filled with goat’s or sheep’s milk cheese, fried in golden olive oil, and sweetened with wildflower honey.  

Seadas di Vito.Hanukkah Seadas: Sardinian Cheese Fritters
Adapted from Academia Barilla

  1. Knead together the flour, water, eggs, butter, and salt to form a dough.
  2. Roll the dough into a ball, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. After half an hour, roll the dough out with a rolling pin.
  4. Use a glass to cut out circles of dough.
  5. Fill each circle with cheese.
  6. Fold the circle in half.
  7. Pinch the edges together to close it.
  8. Heat some olive oil in a pan.
  9. Place the pastries in the oil over medium heat.
  10. Turn the pastries over when they are golden brown.
  11. Drain on paper towels.
  12. Serve hot, with a drizzle of wildflower honey.

From Peel To Seed: Making The Most Of Your Thanksgiving Pumpkin

— by Ronit Treatman

You picked or bought a pumpkin for Thanksgiving.  Now what should you do with it?  Here are three vegan recipes that make use of the whole pumpkin.  One pumpkin can produce an appetizer, a soup, and a vegetable dish for your festive meal.

Begin by cutting your pumpkin in half.  Scoop out the plump seeds from the center of the pumpkin.  From these seeds, you can prepare Sikil P’ak, an ancient Maya appetizer from the Yucatan Peninsula.

More after the jump.
Sikil P’ak
Adapted from Hugo Ortega

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Scoop the pumpkin seeds from your pumpkin (you should get about one cup).
  3. Wash with cold water.
  4. Place on a cookie sheet.
  5. Toast in the oven for about 5 minutes, until golden and fragrant.
  6. Place the toasted pumpkin seeds in a food processor.
  7. Grind until smooth.
  8. Spear one habanero chile with a fork.  Hold it over the flame of a burner or grill until it is charred all over.  
  9. Char 2 plum tomatoes in the same manner.
  10. Add the charred chile and tomatoes to the food processor.
  11. Add 3 tablespoons of minced cilantro.
  12. Add 3 tablespoons of minced chives.
  13. Season with salt to taste.
  14. Process all the ingredients together until you have a smooth paste.

Serve as a festive Thanksgiving appetizer with warm corn chips.

Next, separate the peel from the flesh of the pumpkin.  Make a hearty vegetarian soup from the pumpkin flesh, fusing this New World fruit with exotic spices from North Africa.  

Moroccan Pumpkin Soup
Adapted from Christine Benlafquih

  • 4 cups cubed pumpkin
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp. Ras El Hanout or make your own with the recipe below.
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • Honey to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  1. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a pot.
  2. Add the onion and garlic.
  3. Cook over medium heat until golden.
  4. Add the pumpkin, chickpeas, broth, spices, and honey.
  5. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes.

Serve with fresh, warm pita bread.

If you would like to make your own Ras El Hanout spice mixture combine:

  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves

What can you do with the remaining pumpkin flesh and peel?  You may be inspired by a Japanese specialty called Kabocha No Nimono or Simmered Pumpkin.  It is traditional not to peel the pumpkin when preparing this dish.

Kabocha No Nimono
Adapted from Serakitty

  • 8 cups of diced pumpkin flesh and peel
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup dried mushrooms (preferably Shiitake)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  1. Place all the ingredients in a pot.  
  2. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 15 minutes.  May be served hot or cold.

Kabocha No Nimono is wonderful side dish for Thanksgiving.  Its earthy sweet and salty mushroom flavor makes this a favorite fall comfort food.

The first way to demonstrate thankfulness for our bounty is by not being wasteful.  We say this blessing of gratitude for having a whole pumpkin:

Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
bo-rei p’ri ha-a-da-mah.

Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe,
who creates the fruit of the earth.  

Author Chat: Inside the Jewish Bakery


— by Hannah Lee

On Tuesday night, I attended a fascinating lecture by Stanley Ginsberg, co-author of Inside the Jewish Bakery: Recipes and Memories from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking. Ginsberg has a diverse background, including a Ph.D. in Chinese literature and a career in marketing and financial writing, but he hungered for the Jewish foods of his childhood. An amateur baker, he found his co-author, Norman Berg (who died in May), on a baker’s forum on the Internet and asked for the one item he savored most, onion rolls. Berg, a Bronx native and a retired baker, provided a recipe and it came out great. Next was the Russian coffee cake, with its New World extravagance of butter, cinnamon sugar, nuts, and apricot syrup. The two of them, living on opposite coasts, embarked on a journey of nostalgia and research and culminated in a thick volume packed with tangible sweet and savory memories of our Jewish communities.

More after the jump.  
What is a Jewish bakery?  Well, you may simply think of it as a bakery using Jewish recipes, serving Jewish customers.  But, it is also a living document of the Jews who lived under the Holy Roman Empire as they moved up the Rhine Valley, then eastward towards the Pale of Settlement, established in 1791 by Empress Catherine (the Great), consisting of western Russia and Poland.  We have linguistic souvenirs of their odyssey, such as bentching which derives from the Latin for benediction, and we have culinary artifacts. Challah, which American Jews think of as our unique Sabbath bread, was also eaten by 14th century German Christians.  (The Sephardim had no special bread for Shabbat, maybe because of the Inquisition and the remaining hidden Jews’ need to hide their ritual observance.) The decorated challah comes from Czechoslavkia, Bohemia, and the Balkans, where they had the custom of decorating their holiday breads with symbols.

Many of the items featured in the book are no longer found in our bakeries, such as kornbroyt (corn rye), poppy horns, and bialys, for which no machine has been devised.  Other recipes are for authentic, labor-intensive methods that commercial bakeries now eschew or substitute with time-saving or cheaper replacements. A poignant example is the sad decline of the mass-produced bagel. In the early 20th century, the International Beigel Bakers Union of Greater New York and New Jersey had a tight monopoly; you couldn’t break into the business unless your father or father-in-law were themselves bagel bakers. Ginsberg writes: “In the 40’s and 50’s, it was said, a Jewish boy could more easily get into medical school than become an apprentice bagel baker.”  And we all know about the exclusion of Jews from medical schools.

The stranglehold was broken by three men: Mickey Thompson and his son Daniel who devised a bagel-making machine in 1962 and Murray Lender who expanded his market by distributing bagels through local grocery stores, thus introducing the bagel to “consumers of all ethnicities.”  The new machine could produce a mind-numbing 300 dozen bagels an hour with one unskilled operator. Lender bought the first six machines manufactured by the Thompsons. However, mass production necessitated changes in the recipe. The original stiff dough clogged the machines, so they increased the water content up to 65%. The resultant dough was now soft and stuck to the machines, so they added oil to soften the crumb.

In contrast to the traditional method of chilling the dough for 24-48 hours for a slow fermentation to develop the flavor nowadays prized by artisanal bakers, Lender sped up the process by adding sugar and dough conditioners. Then, he eliminated the initial step of boiling in malt, which created a shiny, chewy brown crust, favoring steam-injected ovens. The resultant bland bagel necessitated the addition of unorthodox flavoring– such as blueberry, cheddar cheese, jalapeño pepper, sun-dried tomato, and pesto — and it became “a doughnut with the sin removed.”

The Montreal bagel, in contrast, is made in under an hour, and uses oil, sugar, eggs, more yeast, and no salt.  It’s boiled in honeyed water, not malt, and it’s baked in wood-burning ovens, which has areas that heat up to 650 °F and thus blacken parts of the bagel. Partisan as a native would be, Ginsberg touts the New York bagel, which is baked in a gas-fired  or electric oven maintained at an even 460 °F for a “more pronounced oven spring and a harder, darker crust.”

“If challah was the queen of the Shabbes table,” writes Ginsberg, “rye was the poor but honest yeoman who served during the other six days of the week.” This is another example of the decline of quality: rye flour is more costly than wheat flour, so rye bread is now often made with only 10% rye with the addition of caraway seeds.  Pumpernickel is a generic term for dark rye bread, but nowadays it’s colored with coffee or caramel coloring.

Inside the Jewish Bakery offers step-by-step instruction, including the sequential timing of recipes, such as the implementation of the same sweet Vienna dough for the first rising, making onion pockets, then another hour’s proofing, shaping sandwich bread, and, with the final hour’s rising and with the gluten fully developed, making kaiser rolls.

Ginsberg now calls San Diego home, but he was a lay leader of Har Zion while Rabbi Gerald Wolpe was alive. His wife, Sylvia, is a Philadelphia native and they still have family ties here. Ginsberg is a ready story-teller and a walking encyclopedia of food facts. What is the difference between rugelach and schnecken? The former is made from triangles rolled up like croissants while the latter is made from long rolls that are sliced before baking. While mandelbroyt is baked only once and contains almond paste, kamishbroyt is baked twice, like the Italian biscotti.

Inside the Jewish Bakery includes complicated charts listing ratios of ingredients, and not simply volumes (as lay people use) or weights (as professional bakers use).  The book won the 2012 Jane Grigson Award given by the International Association of Culinary Professionals for distinguished scholarship in the quality of its research and presentation.

My copy is from the first printing in May 2011 and it’s full of errors, but the website, www.insidethejewishbakery.com/, has a downloadable list of errata as well as nifty videos on how to shape a four-braid and six-braid loaf of challah. Ginsberg also runs a baker’s supply website, www.nybakers.com, where you can find ingredients not available from your local supermarket, such as medium and dark rye flour, malt syrup, dehydrated chopped onion, and nigella seed.

This lecture, held at the Gershman Y, is part of the “What is Your Food Worth?” series coordinated by Temple University’s Feinstein Center for American Jewish History. Upcoming programs include: “Just a Pinch: An Unofficial History of Jewish Cooking in America” at the National Museum of American Jewish History on the 24th at 6:30 pm and “They Were What They Ate: Immigrant Jews and the Encounter with America,” at Gladfelter Hall, Temple University on the 30th at 3:30 pm.  For a complete calendar and on-going conversations about Jewish foodways, log onto www.whatisyourfoodworth.com or www.temple.edu/feinsteinctr.

Agricultural Gifts To The Poor: A Mitzvah For Sukkot

apple jewish cake i made.— by Ronit Treatman

It is a mitzvah to give gifts to the poor during Sukkot.  Which type of gift?  The farmers of Ancient Israel were required to give a tithe, ma’aser, of their harvest (Numbers 18:21-24) to the Levites.  This harvest consisted of wheat, barley, oat, spelt, and rye.  In addition, they had to give a tithe of their production of wine, olive oil, fruit, and cattle.  In modern times, most of us live in cities.  How can we fulfill this mitzvah?

More after the jump.
Those who garden, can choose to donate ten percent of their crops to their local food pantry. Those who don’t garden can go to a pick-your-own farm.  This is a really fun way to connect with nature and our Ancient Israelite past.  Participating in a harvest is a meaningful way to share fresh produce with the poor.  

In the Philadelphia area, there is a very efficient way to accomplish this.  You may select from several pick-your-own orchards. Sukkot is apple and pumpkin season in Pennsylvania. If you pick ten pounds of apples, you should donate one pound to the poor.  

Which organization can you trust to distribute your donations to the needy?  Philabundance has teamed up with the pick-your-own orchards to collect extra fruit for exactly this purpose. We went apple picking in Linvilla Orchards. Philabundance will accept donations right at the orchard, and distribute them directly to those who need them.  Alternatively, you may contact Philabundance to donate your fruit at your convenience. If you would like to help the needy in Israel, Leket is a wonderful organization that gleans the fields and distributes this harvest all over the county.

What can you prepare with the apples and pumpkins that you kept for yourself?  Here are some tasty suggestions you may serve to guests in your sukkah.apple bread 002

Jewish Apple Cake
Adapted from Traci & Jeff Poole

  • 4 Large, freshly picked apples
  • ½ cup orange juice (squeeze your own for best flavor)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 ½ cups sugar
  • 5 tablespoons sugar (do not add to the previous sugar)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Peel and core the apples.  Slice them.  Mix them in a bowl with 4 teaspoons of cinnamon and 5 tablespoons of sugar.
  3. Set the bowl aside.
  4. Mix all the other ingredients in a separate bowl.
  5. Oil a bundt pan.
  6. Pour some batter in.  Add a layer of the apple mixture.
  7. Keep alternating between layers of batter and apples.  
  8. The top layer should be the apple mixture.
  9. Bake the cake for 1 ½ hours to 1 ¾ hours.

This aromatic cake is always popular, and may be served to guests in your sukkah at any time.pumpkin bread - art every day month 08 - day 29

Fresh Pumpkin Bread From A Pumpkin
Adapted from Laurie Bennet

  • One whole pumpkin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 cups sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 ½ cups unbleached flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  1. Place the whole pumpkin in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven.
  2. Bake it for one hour.
  3. Allow the pumpkin to cool.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Slice the pumpkin in half.
  6. Reserve the seeds for roasting.
  7. Scoop out the flesh.
  8. Mix one cup of mashed pumpkin with the other ingredients.
  9. Oil three 7×3 inch loaf pans and distribute the batter equally between them.
  10. Bake for 50 minutes.

This moist, fragrant bread is a perfect treat for the sukkah.

Home Pressed Grape Juice For Rosh Hashanah

pressing— by Ronit Treatman

One of my earliest memories of Rosh Hashanah is that of my grandfather Ben Zion’s homemade grape juice.  He would wake up at the crack of dawn so he could be the first customer at the Carmel Market.  He had his first choice from the crates of grapes that had been picked earlier that morning in the vineyards surrounding Tel Aviv.  Saba Ben Zion would haul his crate home, and press the grapes by hand.  Then he would filter the juice through a cheesecloth.  The clarified liquid was poured into a glass bottle.  He liked to add a few grape peels for added flavor.  Then he would stop up the bottle and chill it overnight.  

More after the jump.
Ready to pressSaba Ben Zion brought this tradition with him from Bukhara. Bukhara was an oasis on the Silk Road in Central Asia.  Over time it was transformed into one of the most important centers of trade, culture, scholarship, and religion of modern day Uzbekistan.  Islam has been the dominant faith in Bukhara for over one thousand years.  Alcohol is haram, forbidden, under the Islamic rules of halal.  In order to be able to comply with the requirement to recite the blessing over the fruit of the vine, the Jews of Bukhara made their own sacramental wine.  They pressed their own grape juice for the children.

Three years ago, I decided to revive this tradition with my own family.  I planted a Concord grape vine in my garden.  This year I am expecting a large crop.  Pressing our own grape juice will be the perfect way to reconnect with nature and participate in the late fall harvest, which was part of the Rosh Hashanah tradition in Ancient Israel.  

Preparing the grapes to make wineCrop of Concord GrapesYou can enjoy being outside with your family in the beautiful fall weather when you pick your own grapes.  If you or anyone you know has a grapevine, you can help pick the ripe grapes at the end of their season.  If you and your friends don’t have grapevines growing in your gardens, take a trip to a vineyard. Peace Valley Winery in Chalfont invites you to pick your own grapes.  Several varieties of grapes are cultivated here that you will never find in a supermarket or farmer’s market.  If you have never done this, then you are in for a treat!  Nothing can compare to the experience of being in a vineyard on a beautiful, crisp fall day.  The intoxicating smell of the earth and plants is everywhere.  The buzzing of insects is a serenade.  The vines are heavy with ripe and juicy grapes, just inviting you to bite into them.  It is time for the fall harvest.

Once you have picked your grapes, you are ready to participate in one of the most enjoyable Rosh Hashanah family activities.  Juice pressing!  Everyone can help rinse the grapes with clean, cold water.  Each person can start removing the grapes from the stems and squeezing them with their fingers into a large pot.  If pressing your own grape juice becomes a tradition, you may want to invest in a manual grape press to make this easier.  Then the juice needs to be filtered through a colander lined with cheesecloth.  When there is enough liquid, it can be poured into a clean glass bottle or jar.   I picked three pounds of grapes.  They produced three cups of juice. You can add a few grape peels to the juice for more flavor.  Be sure to wash your hands well when you are through.  The grape peels can irritate some people’s skin.  Now, you should refrigerate your juice in a sealed glass bottle.

Opening the bottle and drinking home pressed grape juice is a unique experience.  I pressed a batch of ripe Concord grapes from my garden today to see what would happen.  My juice had a rich magenta color. When I inhaled its aroma, I could smell the fruit and flowers of my vineyard.  My first sip of this chilled delicacy carried the special sweet and tart flavor of the grapes.   I could taste its unique terroir, the particular place where these grapes were grown.

A rabbi once explained to me that it is not appropriate to say the blessing for the fruit of the vine over a grape.  “It needs to have been processed, to have required work,” he explained.  “This blessing is only appropriate for wine and grape juice.”  This Rosh Hashanah, when it is time to say the blessing over the fruit of the vine, your home pressed juice will mean a lot more to you than the finest purchased wine ever could.  It will be the result of your own labor, produced with laughter and joy.  To me, a bottle of home pressed grape juice, such as the one that my Saba would make especially for me, is a bottle full of love.  

The blessing over the wine:

BA-RUCH A-TAH A-DO-NOI
ELO-HAI-NU ME-LECH HA-O-LAM
BO-RAI PRI HA-GA-FEN.
Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the
Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.

Shanah Tovah!

Itzik Ashkenazi: An Israeli Wounded Warrior Chef

Itzik Ashkenazi— by Ronit Treatman

“Take one cup of unbleached flour and two eggs. Heap the flour onto a clean surface. Make a hole at the top, so it looks like a volcano.  Pour your eggs into the hole. Start mixing the eggs and flour with one hand. You will need the other hand to prevent the eggs from oozing onto the counter. Once you have incorporated the eggs into the flour, start kneading the dough….”

This is a moment in Itzik Ashkenazi’s current life. He never intended to be a chef, he tells me, as he talks about how he makes fresh pasta.  An electrical engineer by training, he was on duty on a beautiful October day in 1990 on his base near Rosh Pina.  Suddenly, his left leg was shattered by friendly fire. Itzik was rushed to Rambam Hospital.  Fortunately for him, the skillful surgeons who operated on him saved his leg.  His recovery would not have been complete had it not been for the contributions of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, and American non-profit organization dedicated to Israeli soldiers’ well-being.  Physical therapy and other amenities sponsored by the FIDF helped rehabilitate him. Only an orthopedist would know I was ever injured now,” he tells me.  An unexpected result of the process of healing from the pain and trauma of this injury was that Itzik transformed himself from an electrical engineer into one of Tel Aviv’s most passionate chefs.

More after the jump.  
Once he was honorably discharged from the IDF, Itzik needed time to finish healing. He couldn’t just accept the responsibility of working full time as an electrical engineer somewhere.  He decided to help out in his family’s restaurant, Il Pastaio (The Pasta Maker). His Italian-born mother started Il Pastaio in 1988 as a store selling freshly prepared pasta. Located in a Bauhaus building circa 1939, it was the only place in Israel where fresh pasta was made in the traditional Milanese way.  As the store became more and more successful, Itzik’s family decided to hire an Italian architect to design the the first floor interior to be an authentic, northern Italian restaurant.  

Initially, Itzik helped out with the business side of the enterprise. But he still had to heal from his injuries, both externally and emotionally.  Itzik reached deep inside himself for what he truly loved. He felt the call to be creative with food. Itzik learned how to prepare fresh pasta at the feet of the master: Enzo Dellea, a famous Northern Italian chef and cookbook author. The sensual experience of mixing flour and eggs, kneading the fresh dough, and inhaling its earthy aroma helped repair Itzik’s internal emotional trauma.  Nurturing hungry people with delicious, artisanal food filled him with joy. As part of his healing process, Itzik discovered his true passion.

As he became more accomplished in the kitchen, he reached into his family’s Jewish heritage from Rhodes.  Itzik’s aunt, Matilda Koen-Sarano, wrote a cookbook in Ladino called Gizar Kon Gozo or Cooking with Pleasure.  From this book, he shares with us a recipe that combines his love of preparing fresh pasta with a traditional Sephardic dish called travados, or as he calls them affectionately, travadikos.  The Ashkenazi family prepares travadikos to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.  “Travadikos are a mezza luna (half moon) of fresh dough, filled with a mixture of ground nuts.  The filled dough is baked, and then simmered in honey syrup.  Travadikos taste a lot like baklava,” he explains to me.  

Matilda Koen-Sarano’s Travadikos
Adapted from Gizar Kon Gozo

For the dough:

travados 084

Travados

Travados

travados 097

Photos: The Boreka Diary

  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder

For the filling:

  • 1-½ cups ground almonds or walnuts
  • ¼ cups sugar

For the syrup:

  • ¾ cup honey
  • ½ cup sugar
  • zest from ½ lemon
  • 1 tablespoon water

Preparation:

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the dough together.
  2. Allow the dough to rest for two hours.
  3. Mix the ground nuts and sugar.
  4. Mix all the ingredients for the syrup in a pot over a low flame.  Stir until a golden syrup forms.  Keep warm.
  5. Preheat the oven to 356 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Roll out the dough.
  7. Using a wine glass, cut out circles of dough.
  8. Place one teaspoon of filling in each circle of dough.
  9. Fold the dough in half over the filling, and pinch shut to create a mezza luna (half moon).
  10. Bake the trovadikos for 30 minutes.
  11. Remove the trovadikos from the oven and simmer in the syrup for a few seconds.
  12. Remove the trovadikos with a slotted spoon and place them on a large serving platter.
  13. Garnish with a dusting of ground nuts mixed with sugar.

During his hospitalization at Rambam Hospital, Itzik discovered that one of the missions of the FIDF is to rehabilitate wounded soldiers.  They do this through their Strides Program.  “I am very, very fortunate,” Itzik tells me.  “My friends who were injured during combat carry invisible injuries,” he says.  “They can’t sleep at night.  I wish I could help them find something to move them away from what happened to them during their military service.”  As Rosh Hashanah, the time of “teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah,” arrives, please consider helping repair these soldiers’ lives with a contribution to FIDF.  Your gift may even help discover a new culinary genius!

I would like to extend my special thanks to Beit Halochem for connecting me with Itzik Ashkenazi.

Shanah Tovah!

Parenting Chat

— by Hannah Lee

In the current issue of The New Yorker, there’s an article by Elizabeth Kolbert on why American children are spoiled rotten.

I found it fascinating to read about other cultures that instill responsibility at an early age, such as the subsistence farmers of the Peruvian Amazon, where toddlers heat their own food, three-year-olds practice cutting wood and grass with machetes and knives, and children of six help their fathers with hunting and fishing and mothers with cooking.  By the time, they reach puberty, these Matsigenka children have mastered most of the skills necessary for survival. We all know of spoiled American children, but Kolbert cites case incidents from a study by Elinor Ochs and Carolina Izquierdo of middle-class families in Los Angeles.

In another representative encounter, an eight-year-old girl sat down at the dining table. Finding that no silverware had been laid out for her, she demanded, “How am I supposed to eat?” Although the girl clearly knew where the silverware was kept, her father got up to get it for her.

It later mentions that when American youth go off to college, they’re less worried about the academics than the “logistics of everyday life.”   Gave me much food for thought in wondering whether I’ve prepared my children for life in the 21st century.

Mimouna: The Moroccan Jewish New Year


Video courtesy of Shalom Sesame. Join Lior and her family as they celebrate the end of Passover with the special Moroccan celebration called Mimouna filled with exciting storytelling, elaborate costumes, and some yummy traditional treats!

— by Ronit Treatman

When the sun sets on the eighth day of Passover, Moroccan Jews celebrate a special holiday called the Mimouna.  The basis for this holiday comes from the Bible.  Instructions for celebrating Passover are found in Ezekiel 45,

The fourteenth day of the first month shall be your Passover and during the seven day festival, unleavened bread shall be eaten.

Exodus 12 describes the transition from Passover to the New Year,

This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.

Mimouna is the Moroccan Jewish New Year. It is celebrated with symbolic foods and the first leavened bread after Passover.

More after the jump.
This celebration is truly an example of hospitality and rejoicing. Moroccan families wear distinctive embroidered robes from Morocco.  The celebrants’ homes are transformed into elegant Moroccan banquets.  The best tablecloths are brought out, and heirloom trays and candlesticks from Morocco are displayed.  People leave the doors of their homes open, and greet every visitor with the phrase, “bracha ve mazal!” “Blessings and luck!”  They set a festive table with special symbols.  

Symbols Of The Mimouna

Sweetness

Cakes, cookies, marzipan, nougats of nuts and honey, jams, dry fruits, crystallized citrus peels, and honey are placed on the table in hopes of a sweet new year.  One of the most traditional confections is zbib, made with raisins and walnuts.  This thick, caramel-colored confection will sweeten your palate and your year.  Shoshana Golan, a dear friend and an outstanding teacher at the Perelman Jewish Day School, shared her family’s recipe with me.

Shoshana Golan’s Zbib Recipe

  • 1 lb. raisins
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. sunflower oil
  • Walnuts for garnishing
  1. Place the raisins, sugar, water, and sunflower oil in a pot.
  2. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 30 minutes.  
  3. Pour into a serving bowl, and garnish with the walnuts.

Renewal

Green stalks of fava beans and wheat decorate the table.  They are symbols of the new growth of spring.

Prosperity

A plate with pure, white flour, five fava beans, five dates, and five silver coins is placed in the center of the table.  The number five is considered to be auspicious as a protection against the evil eye.  Hand shaped chamsa amulets (from the Hebrew word “chamesh” or “five”) are on display.

Purity

White foods are placed on the table to symbolize purity.  Pitchers of milk, plain yogurt, and a special desert called jaban are offered.  
Jaban is a traditional Moroccan Jewish confection made with egg whites, rose water, and sugar.  It is usually decorated with almonds and walnuts.  It is soft, sweet, cold, and refreshing.  Shoshana Golan generously shared her recipe with me.  The traditional recipe calls for cracking fresh eggs, separating the yolks, and whipping the whites.  I encourage you to use organic, pasteurized egg whites to ensure that there are no harmful bacteria in this recipe.  

Shoshana Golan’s Jaban Recipe

  • 1 cup pasteurized egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon rose water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  1. Place all the ingredients in a mixer and whip until they are very stiff.  
  2. Pour the mixture in a bowl.
  3. Decorate with almonds and walnuts.
  4. Cover with clingy plastic wrap.
  5. Refrigerate for at least two hours.  
  6. Serve cold.

Fertility

Fish, fava beans, and chickpeas are traditionally associated with fertility.  A live fish is placed on the table, reminiscent of the Persian New Year, Norooz.  Fried, salted fava beans are the national Moroccan Passover snack.  These salty, crunchy beans are like little potato chips.

Fried Fava Beans
Adapted from Moroccan Cooking by Rivka Levy-Melul

  • 1 lb. of dried fava beans
  • Baking powder
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Soak the fava beans in cold water overnight.  
  2. Drain the beans.
  3. Rub the skins off with your fingers.
  4. Coat the beans with baking powder.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a large pot.
  6. Fry small batches of the fava beans.
  7. Blot out the excess oil with paper towels.
  8. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Serve hot.

A special type of yeast crepe called el moufletta is prepared.  It is served with butter and honey.  This is the first leavened food eaten after Passover by Moroccan Jews.  

El Moufletta
Adapted from Moroccan Cooking by Rivka Levy-Melul

  • 2 pounds of flour
  • 4 tablespoons of active, dry, rapid rise yeast
  • 3 cups of warm water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • A pinch of salt
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  
  2. Divide the dough into 30 to 40 small balls.
  3. Heat some oil in a large skillet over a low flame.
  4. Flatten the individual balls of dough with your hands.
  5. Fry each pancake over low heat.  When one side turns golden, flip it over and fry the other side.

Spread each el moufletta with butter and honey.  Roll it up like a cigar.  When you bite into it, it will be hot, soft, buttery, and sweet.  You will experience a feeling of well-being and contentment!

The name “Mimouna” is said to come from the Hebrew word “emunah” which means “faith.”  Another explanation is that this name honors Abraham ben Moses ben Maimon, the father of the Rambam.   The Moroccan Jewish influx to Israel, beginning in 1956, brought this festive holiday out of Morocco to be discovered by everyone else.  Currently, the Mimouna is a huge national celebration in Israel.  If you are interested in participating in a Mimouna celebration in Philadelphia, you should contact Rabbi Amiram Gabay from Beit HaRambam Congregation.  Bracha ve mazal! Blessings and luck!”

  • Beit Harambam Congregation, Sephardic (Edot HaMizrach), 
9981 Verree Rd., Philadelphia, PA 19115, 215-677-9675
, Rabbi: Amiram Gabay 215-969-3031


Authentic Persian Mishloach Manot (Purim Basket)


Photo: Jypsygen

— by Ronit Treatman

Purim is a foodie’s paradise!  The Book Of Esther (9:22) instructs us to feast in celebration of the Jews’ deliverance from Haman.  It also tells us to send gifts of food to one another, so everyone may rejoice.  According to the Halakha, “gifts of food” means at least two different foods that are ready to be consumed.  In my family, the tradition was to have a minimum of three items in the Purim basket.  We always baked Hamantaschen, and included nuts and fruits in our gifts.  This year you can take your friends on a magic carpet ride to exotic, faraway Persia by sending them Purim packages with authentic Persian treats.  

I found recipes for four traditional Persian sweets.  They are pareve and gluten-free.  Best of all, they are really easy to prepare.

Recipes after the jump.


Photo: Shirni Sara

Nan-e Nokhochi:  Persian Chickpea Cookies
Adapted from Nooschi

  • 3 1/2 cups of roasted chickpea flour (available at Kalustyan’s)
  • 3 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon rose water
  • Crushed unsalted pistachios
  1. Place the chickpea flour, cardamom, sugar, oil, and rose water in a mixer.  Blend well.  
  2. Place the dough in an 11 X 7 brownie pan.  Flatten the dough so it fits snugly in the pan.  
  3. Cover and place in the refrigerator for an hour.  
  4. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Cut the dough with a linzer cookie cutter.
  6. Place the cookies on a cookie sheet.  
  7. Decorate with the crushed pistachios.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes until they turn a golden-brown color.

These cookies are very crumbly, not too sweet, and melt in your mouth.

Naan Berenji: Persian Rice Cookies
Adapted from the Iran Chamber Society

  • 1 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups rice flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup rose water
  • Crushed pistachio
  1. Mix all the ingredients except the pistachio together.  Refrigerate for overnight.  
  2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  3. Roll out the dough.  Cut the dough with a round cookie cutter.  Garnish with the crushed pistachio.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes.  

Naan Berenji are soft, moist, fragrant, and delicious.

Toot: Persian Marzipan
Adapted from Turmeric & Saffron

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 2 cups ground almonds
  • 3 tablespoons rose water
  • Slivered pistachios for garnish
  1. Mix all the ingredients except the granulated sugar and crushed pistachios.  Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.  Pick off small pieces of dough and roll them around a clean surface to shape them into the traditional shape: that of a mulberry.  
  2. Sprinkle some sugar on each confection.  
  3. Insert a sliver of pistachio at one end of each “berry” to be the stem.

Toot is rich, chewy, and intensely satisfying.  

Nan-E Gerdui: Persian Walnut Cookies
Adapted from New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies by Najmieh Batmanglij

  • 2 cups ground walnuts
  • 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Crushed pistachios for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  2. Grease a cookie sheet.
  3. Mix all of the ingredients except the crushed pistachios in a bowl.
  4. Scoop out the batter with a teaspoon, and drop little mounds of it onto the cookie sheet.  
  5. Sprinkle crushed pistachios on the cookies.  
  6. Bake for 20 minutes.

These cookies are sweet, nutty, crunchy, and delectable.

When you have finished concocting these exotic, delicious treats, it will be time for you to present them in a fashion that befits them.  I think it’s fun to imagine how they would have been served at Queen Esther’s party.  You can find an inexpensive silver-like tray at a thrift store, or a disposable metal tray.  Place each confection in an individual bakery tissue, and arrange it on the tray.   When your friends bite into these cookies, they will experience the sensual pleasures of rosewater, cardamom, and nuts.  Your magic carpet will transport them to Shushan, to Queen Esther’s table.