Rosh Hashanah Honey Bread From Beta Israel

One of the most exotic foods for Rosh Hashanah comes from the Ethiopian Jewish community, or Beta Israel.

Yemarima yewotet dabo is a special type of bread, sweetened with honey and infused with spices.

The Kaffa province, located in southwestern Ethiopia, is famous for its mountain rainforests covered with coffee trees. This is where coffee originated. The province also has Africa’s largest population of honeybees. These bees produce a very special type of honey, flavored with the nectar of the coffee tree flowers.

The coffee plant is related to the gardenia family, and the honey produced from its nectar is light and aromatic. Ethiopians have historically taken advantage of this abundance of honey and incorporated it into their foods and drinks.

Baking yemarima yewotet dabo is a very ancient tradition. The dabo is baked in a traditional clay pot called a shakla dist. The Beta Israel women are renown for their pottery making skills, a craft which is passed from mother to daughter.

photo (9)In the thatched hut villages of Ethiopia, a fire was started to make charcoal. The dough for the bread was mixed in a wooden bowl.

The inside of the shakla dist was lined with fresh banana leaves. This was to prevent the dough from sticking to the vessel.

After the dough was poured in, more banana leaves were layered over it. Then the pot was tightly covered.

This “Dutch oven” was placed on the hot coals, and then some coals were positioned on top of its lid. After about 30 minutes, the pot was removed from the fire. The banana leaves were peeled off, and the aromatic bread was ready.

In 1984, Beta Israel came to Israel with Operation Moses, and brought their distinctive Rosh Hashanah bread with them. You may bake some honey dabo in your oven.

Yemarima Yewotet Dabo: Spiced Ethiopian Honey Bread

Adapted from What’s 4 Eats  photo (7)

  • 5 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup organic wildflower honey
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Place the yeast in a bowl with ¼ cup warm water. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the honey, egg, salt, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and coriander.
  3. Add the yeast mixture to the honey and spices.
  4. Pour in 1 cup of warm milk and 6 tablespoons of melted butter.
  5. Mix in the flour.
  6. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and allow the dough to rise for 90 minutes.
  7. Take the dough out of the bowl, and knead.
  8. Shape into a round loaf.
  9. Place the loaf on a cookie sheet covered with banana leaves or parchment paper.
  10. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  11. Allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes.
  12. Bake the bread for 60 minutes.

I chose to bake the bread much as it had been prepared in Ethiopia.

I purchased frozen banana leaves  and followed the package directions. First, I defrosted them for a couple of hours. Then, I rinsed them with cold water, and dried them off with paper towels. This removed the sap and white powdery substance that naturally occur on the leaves.

I lined my baking dish with the leaves, and using scissors, cut them to the desired size. I placed the dough in the baking dish and put it in the oven. As the bread started baking, the banana leaves imparted a smell reminiscent of tea steeping. The leaves themselves are not edible.

After one hour, the dabo was finally ready. I pulled out the golden, crusty loaf, which gave off an earthy aroma. Impatiently, I sliced it while it was still hot. It had a wonderful, moist, spongy texture, with a crackly crust. It was not too sweet, with only a hint of spices.

This bread is delicious on its own, or with more honey, and of course, a cup of Ethiopian coffee.

Melkam Addis Amet: Shanah Tovah!

3 Love Potions for Tu B’Av

By dvdp.tumblr.com

By dvdp.tumblr.com

Tu B’Av, the Jewish holiday of love, is believed to be a fortuitous time to find one’s bashert, or “soulmate.”

Throughout history, people have tried to help move the process along by concocting love potions.

This year, the holiday begins at sunset on August 11. Below are three of the most popular “love potions.” [Read more…]

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.  

Miracles & Meals: Recipes From The Holocaust

— by Ronit Treatman

Philadelphia resident Ruth Kessler is featured in the new cookbook Miracles & Meals, a compilation of 115 stories and over 250 recipes collected from Holocaust Survivors around the world. Miracles & Meals may be purchased from her website.

More after the jump.


Ruthie and Erika Kessler

Ruthie Kessler was born in Vienna, Austria in 1933. She lived with her older sister, Erika, and her parents, Henry and Lotte. Following the Nazi takeover of Austria in March 1938, things began to deteriorate for the Jews in Vienna. In 1939, Ruthie’s parents placed her on the Kindertransport to England ,in order to save her life. For various reasons, Ruthie’s sister, Erika, was not included on the Kindertransport. The Kindertransport was a rescue operation that saved 10,000 children from Nazi terror. In May, 1939, Ruthie waved goodbye to her family at the train depot. With tears in her eyes, she shouted to them, “Will I see you soon?”  Ruthie traveled by train across Europe and then boarded a ship. Bewildered, confused and with nothing but what she wore, Ruthie set sail for Liverpool, England. During the war, Ruthie lived with a foster family in London. To avoid the German air raids and for her own safety, she was temporarily sent to a hostel at the northern tip of England.

While Ruthie escaped to Great Britain, her father fled to the United States with the only authorized visa for the family. He intended to obtain additional visas for Ruthie’s mother and sister, but the American Consulate failed to produce the promised visas, even after her father had met the many bureaucratic demands. Meanwhile, Ruthie’s mother and sister were deported to Poland in 1941. Letters sent from the ghetto there were smuggled out with the help of a former family maid. The last letter received from her sister was dated July 1942. It is believed that they were either killed outright or transported to a death camp, where they both perished.

Chocolate Chip CookiesAfter the war, Ruthie came to the United States at her father’s request, but he, unfortunately, could not support her. By the time she was 16, Ruthie had lived in five foster homes and attended 15 schools. She eventually settled in with her uncle and aunt in Philadelphia, where she completed her education. Ruthie and her husband, Lou, have three children and four grandchildren and still live in the Philadelphia area today.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (parve or dairy)

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter or margarine
  • ¾ cup cake meal
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup & 2 TBSP brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup potato starch
  • 1 tsp orange juice
  • 6 ounces chocolate chips

Mix butter (margarine) and sugar until just blended. Add eggs. Add all dry ingredients (except choc chips) and mix until blended.  Add vanilla & juice.  Stir in chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees on a greased cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Jewish apple cake
Jewish Apple Cake (parve)
Dough

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 cup oil
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp vanilla

Apple mixture

  • 4 granny smith apples
  • Handful raisins
  • Handful walnuts
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  1. In a separate bowl peel and pare apples and add all other apple mixture ingredients.
  2. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Alternate dough with apples mixture making sure that apple mixture is on the tops.
  4. Bake for 1 ½ hours

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.

Traditional Tuscan Rosh Hashanah Cookies

— by Ronit Treatman

“Evictions?!  Who gives a cookie a name like that?” I asked Alessandra Rovati.  Rovati, the founder of Dinner in Venice, shared her traditional Tuscan recipe for Rosh Hashanah with me.

More after the jump.  
She described Sfratti, rolled cookies filled with nuts and dried fruits.  “Sfratti means “evictions” in Italian.  These cookies, in their original version (without the figs and candied fruit, only with honey and walnuts), are said to have Jewish origins.  Sfratti are served for Christmas in several Tuscan towns from Pitigliano to Sorana. Apparently their shape is a reminder of the sticks that landlords used to drive the Jews away from their communities. Jews in many areas of Central Italy serve them on Rosh Hashanah,” she explained.  “Why would they want to remember that when they are celebrating the New Year?” I asked her. “It is the custom of the Jews of Italy to temper happiness with memories of suffering, just as we temper mourning with hope of future redemption.  That is why we often mix vinegar with honey.  I am thinking of a tradition we have of saving the candle we use to read Lamentations on Tisha BeAv until Hanukka, when it becomes the Shamash to light the menorah.  Thus tying the holiday that commemorates the destruction of the Temple with the one that celebrates its rededication, and reminding us that there should be hope even in despair.”

Tuscan Sfratti
Adapted from Dinner in Venice

  • 3 cups flour

  • 1 cup sugar

  • A pinch of salt

  • 1/3 cup cold margarine or cold butter
  • 2/3 cup marsala or other sweet wine

  • 2/3 cup honey

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • A pinch of ground cloves, or nutmeg (optional)

  • A pinch of black pepper

  • 3/4 cups coarsely chopped walnuts or other nuts
  • 3/4 cups mixed dried and candied fruit (dried figs, raisins, candied orange or your favorite type/s), finely chopped
  • Grated zest of one lemon or mix of lemon and orange zest

  • 1 egg yolk
  1. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt; add the margarine or butter; process until crumbly. Add the sweet wine, and process until it holds together. Roll the dough into a ball. Divide the dough in two parts, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  2. In the meantime, heat the honey in a heavy saucepan; bring to a boil, add the spices, and simmer until syrupy (it forms a ribbon when a spoon is lifted): this should take between 5 and 15 minutes.
  3. Add the nuts the dried fruit, and the lemon or/and orange zest, and simmer for 10 more minutes. Allow to cool off until you can touch it without burning your fingers.
  4. On a floured surface, roll the honey filling into 6 long ropes, working quickly before it hardens. Now divide the dough into 6 rectangles.
  5. Roll out each piece on a floured surface into a long rectangle (about 4″x12″ or even longer) and lay a piece of filling along the center of each piece. Roll up the dough around the filling (kind of like a Moroccan cigar). Now cut the long cylinders into shorter cookies. I’ve seen them cut shorter (about 1 inch) but I make them longer, like a finger.
  6. Place the cookies on a greased baking sheet (or lined with parchment) and brush them with the egg, mixed with a couple teaspoons of water. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden, in a pre-heated 375 F oven.

Photo credit: Dinner in Venice.

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!

Shavuot Centerpiece: The Savory Cheesecake

One Local Summer wk 11: zucchini ricotta cheesecake (whole)— by Ronit Treatman

Traditionally, Shavuot is celebrated with sweet cheesecakes and blintzes, redolent of cinnamon, raisins, and sugar.  It is what we eat as we celebrate the giving of the Torah at Sinai.  The basic unsweetened cheesecake is a neutral palette.  It invites creativity!  Many cultures have a tradition of preparing savory cheesecakes.  For this year’s celebration, surprise your guests with something a little out of the ordinary.  Prepare a piquant cheesecake for a special holiday treat.

More after the jump.
The Ancient Greeks are credited with inventing the cheesecake.  Archaeologists discovered cheese molds from 2000 BCE on the island of Samos.  In Ancient Greece, cheesecake was prepared for Olympic athletes.  The most ancient recipe for cheesecake was written down by the Greek physician Aegimus.  The ingredients for his cake were cheese, honey, and flour.  He instructed cooks to pound the cheese and honey together with a mortar and pestle.  Flour was to be added to form a type of batter.  The resulting dough was baked in a wood-burning oven.  This cheesecake was believed to give the athletes energy.

In 146 BCE Rome conquered Greece.  The Romans adopted the cheesecake, and added a few special touches to it.  They mixed the cheese with eggs, and lined the baking vessel with fresh bay leaves.  Marcus Cato, a Roman politician, was the first to record a recipe for this cake called libum.  Below is an excerpt from his agricultural writings in which he explains how to prepare libum.

Libum to be made as follows: 2 pounds cheese well crushed in a mortar; when it is well crushed, add in 1 pound bread-wheat flour or, if you want it to be lighter, just 1/2 a pound, to be mixed with the cheese. Add one egg and mix all together well. Make a loaf of this, with the leaves under it, and cook slowly in a hot fire under a brick.”

The Romans spread the cheesecake throughout their empire.  Each new place added its own special touch to the recipe, transforming it.  Today there are many cheesecake recipes from all over the world.  Here are some savory cheesecake recipes you may prepare for your degustation this Shavuot.

Savory Cheesecake With Caramelized Shallots And Olives
Adapted from The Chubby Vegetarian

For the crust:

  • 1 ½ cups breadcrumbs (or ground almonds for a gluten-free crust)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves

For the filling:

  • 3 eggs
  • 6 oz. soft goat cheese
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-teaspoon fresh, minced rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  2. Oil a 9′ spring form pan.
  3. Grind all the crust ingredients together in a food processor.  
  4. Press this paste to the bottom of the baking pan.
  5. Bake the crust for about 7 minutes.
  6. Remove the crust from the oven.
  7. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan.
  8. Sautée the shallots until they are golden-brown.
  9. Add the wine, and reduce the heat.  
  10. Simmer until all the wine is absorbed.
  11. Place this shallot mixture and all the other filling ingredients in a food processor.
  12. Mix into a paste.
  13. Pour the cheese mixture over the crust.
  14. Bake for 50 minutes.
  15. Allow to cool.

Serve garnished with assorted cured olives, aged balsamic vinegar, and fresh parsley.

maple cheesecakeStilton Cheesecake
Adapted from My Recipes

  • 4 oz. Stilton cheese
  • 16 oz. cream cheese
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1-tablespoon flour (or ground almonds for a gluten-free recipe)
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. dry marjoram
  • ½ tsp. dry parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Oil a muffin pan.
  3. Mix all the ingredients in a mixer.
  4. Pour the batter into the muffin pan, filling each cup completely.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes.
  6. After the Stilton cheesecakes cool, refrigerate for 4 hours.

Serve cold, garnished with toasted walnuts.

Florentine Cheesecake
Adapted from Yummly

For the crust:

  • 8 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs (or ground almonds for a gluten-free recipe).

For the filling:

  • 1-¼ cups grated Gruyere cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 20 oz. cream cheese
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ cup chopped scallion
  • 10 oz., baby spinach leaves
  • ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp. paprika

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix the breadcrumbs and butter.
  3. Press this dough into an oiled 9′ spring form pan.
  4. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, until it just starts to brown.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  6. Microwave the baby spinach leaves for 3 minutes in a covered glass container.
  7. Mix the cooked spinach with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl.
  8. Pour the cheese mixture over the crust.
  9. Bake for 65 minutes.

Serve warm with fresh sliced fruit.

For an easy-to-prepare yet exotic feast, try a savory cheesecake this Shavuot.  With the addition of some fresh baguettes and a crisp green salad, a savory cheesecake becomes the centerpiece of an unforgettable Shavuot feast.