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


Mitzvah Brei: Don’t Waste Those Leftovers!

Matzo brei — by Ronit Treatman

If you host a Passover Seder or two, there is a good chance that you will have a refrigerator full of unconsumed food.  The principle of Bal Tashkhit (Kiddushin 32a) is basic to Jewish Law.  “Bal Tashkhit” means “do not destroy.”  We are instructed to avoid senseless waste or damage.  When I find creative new ways to serve my Passover surplus, it feels like I am performing a mitzvah!  How can you get people to enjoy the uneaten fare from your festive meal?  Incorporate it with the huge supply of matza and eggs that are necessary to prepare for Passover.  Dress up your matza brei (fried matza) and prepare satisfying repasts for your friends and family.

More after the jump.
roasted peppersVegetable side dishes are colorful and versatile.  Roasted asparagus, steamed artichokes, braised carrots, baked beets, sautéed mushrooms, or grilled red peppers may make an appearance at our Seder.  Any leftovers are perfect in a matza brei.

Vegetable Matza Brei

  • 6 squares of matza
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • Any leftover vegetables
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic
  1. Moisten the matza with cold water.  
  2. Break up the matza in a bowl.
  3. Mix the eggs into the matza.
  4. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil.  
  5. Sautee the green onions.  
  6. Add the leftover vegetables.
  7. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and garlic.
  8. Pour the matza-egg mixture over the vegetables.  
  9. Scramble until the egg is cooked through.
  10. Serve immediately!

This matza brei is moist, chewy, and garlicky.  It is the perfect Passover comfort food.

Most of us serve some sort of meat dish for the main course of our Seder.  How can we extend what is left in a delicious way?  By copying an inventive dish concocted in China: Egg Foo Young!  We will envelop our “lotus egg” in matza!

Chicken, Beef, Lamb, or Turkey Egg Foo Young Matza Brei

Sauce For The Egg Foo Young Matza Brei

  • 4 tablespoons kosher for Passover chicken or beef bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon of walnut oil
  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate syrup
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  1. Place all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil.  
  2. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Sauteed Mushrooms & OnionsEgg Foo Young Matza Brei

  • 1/4 cup cooked chicken, beef, lamb, or turkey; cubed
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 bunch green onions, cut up
  • 1 celery rib, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut up
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Over medium heat, stir-fry the meat of your choice, ginger, green onions, celery, mushrooms, and bell pepper.
  2. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Set the mixture aside.
  4. Moisten the matza with cold water.  
  5. Break up the matza in a bowl.
  6. Mix the eggs into the matza.
  7. Add the vegetable mixture to the eggs and matza.
  8. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan.  Pour in the matza-meat-egg-vegetable mixture.  Cook over medium heat.  When the bottom turns golden-brown, flip it over.
  9. Serve with the sauce on the side.

This version of egg foo young is salty, chewy, and very satisfying.  The sauce adds a touch of vaguely familiar exoticism.  

Charoset In The MakingCharoset, a wine-infused, sweet, crunchy fruit-and-nut paste is one of the most delicious treats on the Seder table.  How can we inventively use what is left?  Transform it into a breakfast or dessert matza brie.

Sweet Charoset Matza Brie

  • 6 squares of matza
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • Charoset
  • Powdered sugar
  1. Place the charoset in a microwave-safe bowl.  Cover and heat for two minutes.
  2. Moisten the matza with cold water.  
  3. Break up the matza in a bowl.
  4. Mix the eggs into the matza.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan.  
  6. Pour the matza-egg mixture into the pan.
  7. When the bottom of the matza brei turns a golden-brown, flip it over.
  8. When the other side has cooked through, spread the charoset over it.
  9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

This sweet and crunchy matza brie is a perfect pick-me-up any time.  It goes especially well with some hot coffee or tea.

Passover leftovers present us with the opportunity to be frugally innovative.  As I reposition the foods that remain in my refrigerator, I remember a Yiddish expression that both of my grandmothers were fond of.  They would exclaim, “Du vest dos uf essen!” “You will eat this up!”  Chag Sameach!

Let Our Children Cook!

— by Ronit Treatman

In my family, the fun of Passover begins long before the Seder.  It starts with perusing all of our cookbooks and discussing which recipes will be prepared.  It continues with the shopping expeditions for all the specialty Passover supplies.  The celebration begins with the cooking.  In many homes, children are excluded from this step.  I believe that it is important to welcome the little ones into the kitchen, and to encourage them to prepare something that is kosher for Passover.  By cooking with us, children absorb treasured family recipes, and the laws of kashrut for Passover in a hands-on way.  This is a very special bonding time.

More after the jump.
The important thing is the process, not the end product.  Homemade dishes have a charm to them that professionally prepared foods cannot compete with.  Your child’s offering for the Seder will be sure to delight your family and friends.  Here are some suggested recipes.

Chocolate Covered Fruit

  • Pareve or dairy chocolate chips
  • Wooden toothpicks
  • Fresh strawberries, mango, bananas, raspberries, kiwi, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, pineapple, or any other fruit of your choice.
  1. Wash the fruit.  If using banana, mango, or pineapple, the fruit should be cut up (with adult help if necessary).
  2. Insert a toothpick in each piece of fruit.
  3. Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl.  Heat in the microwave for about one minute.  Stir the chocolate well.
  4. Dip the fruit into the melted chocolate.  Place it on a plate covered with a piece of parchment paper.  When the chocolate has hardened, transfer the fruit to a serving platter.

Matza Bark

  • Matza
  • Pareve or dairy chocolate chips.
  • Dried cranberries, cherries, figs, dates, mango, pears, or apricots.  Large dried fruits should be cut up.
  • Pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, shredded coconut, or any other nut of your choice.
  1. Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave for one minute.  Stir well.
  2. Dip the matza in the melted chocolate.  Strew the dried fruits and nuts of your choice over the chocolate.
  3. Place the matza bark on a plate covered with parchment paper.
  4. When the chocolate has hardened, transfer to a serving platter.

Almond Macaroons (Amaretti)

  • 3 cups ground almonds
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of almond extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Prepare a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
  3. Separate the yolks from the egg whites.  Reserve the yolks for another use.
  4. Mix the ground almonds, sugar, egg whites, and vanilla extract in a bowl.  
  5. Drop a teaspoon of dough at a time onto the parchment paper.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes.

You can vary this recipe by combining the ground almonds with shredded coconut and/or chocolate chips.

When the macaroons emerge, they will be very soft.  As they cool, they will harden.

Walnut Cake

  • One cup of ground walnuts
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Oil a 9-inch pan with olive oil.
  3. Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in one bowl, and the whites in another.
  4. Mix the yolks with 6 tablespoons of sugar in a mixer.
  5. Whip the egg whites with the salt and 6 tablespoons of sugar.
  6. Combine the yolk mixture with the whipped egg whites and the ground walnuts.  
  7. Pour the batter into the oiled pan.
  8. Place in the oven and lower the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  9. Bake for 50 minutes.
  10. After this cake has cooled completely, it may be garnished with any of the following:
    • Powdered sugar
    • Whipped cream: Whip together 1 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and 1 tablespoon pure vanilla or brandy.
    • Fresh Berries
    • Chocolate Sauce: Heat one cup of heavy cream in a small saucepan, over low heat.  Add 1/4 cup of pure vanilla or Sabra Liqueur and mix well.  Pour in 1 cup of chocolate chips.  Combine until smooth.
    • Warm Apricot Preserves

As we begin the frenzy of preparing for the Passover Seder, we can benefit in many ways by availing ourselves of the help of our children.  This will be fun for them, and time saving for us.  When they present their creations at the Seder, the sweetest reward of all will be the look of pride in their shining eyes!

Venetian Passover Dishes: A Taste Of Multiculturalism From The Past

Venice Grand Canal— by Ronit Treatman

Visiting Venice is an incredible adventure!  Architecturally, it is one of the most sumptuous cities in the world.  Its Jewish history goes back to the tenth century, when Jewish traders first came to Venice to engage in commerce.  By the 1500s, Venice had the world’s first ghetto, in which Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and German Jews coexisted.  The community practically disappeared after World War II.  Currently, only about 500 Jews live in Venice.  It is possible to sample some Jewish Italian specialties in Venice’s only kosher restaurant, which is run by the CHABAD in the Ghetto Nuovo.  In order to really savor Venetian Jewish specialties, I turned to Alessandra Rovati, one of the few Jews who is originally from Venice.  She shares her family’s Venetian Jewish recipes on her Dinner in Venice website.

More after the jump.
Trying to find kosher food in Italy can be daunting.  When we visited Venice, I confidently asked our waiter in Italian about the ingredients in a sauce.  “Does it have pork?” “A porco?” I queried.  He threw his napkin down angrily and stomped off in a huff!  I had no idea why this question would have insulted him, until another waiter explained that “porco” is a slang word with many off color connotations.  I should have said “maiale.”  Trying to find authentic Jewish Italian food is just as hard.  It is possible to find Jewish artichokes, or “carciofi alla giudia” in any Jewish neighborhood in Italy.  We sampled these crispy, lemony artichokes in the Gam Gam kosher restaurant.  If you would like to taste genuine Jewish Venetian recipes, there is nothing better than getting yourself invited to a Jewish Venetian family’s home.  

In her site, Ms. Rovati invites us into her virtual home to share some unique Jewish recipes from Venice.  These recipes have been passed down in her family.  They are healthy, colorful, and full of Mediterranean vegetables.  Here is an adaptation of her Venetian spinach frittata.  Its ingredients reveal that it came to Venice with the Jews of Turkey and Catalonia.  This frittata is pareve, and kosher for Passover.

Venetian Passover Spinach Frittata
Adapted from Alessandra Rovati

  • 1 lb. baby spinach leaves, pre-washed, in a microwavable bag
  • 1 Spanish onion
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of matza meal (you may substitute
  • ground almonds to make this gluten-free)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Granulated sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons of pine nuts
  • 4 tablespoons of raisins
  1. Place the raisins in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Cover the bowl, and allow the raisins to absorb the water.
  2. Cut the onion in half, and chop up one half of it.  Reserve the other half for another dish.
  3. Pierce the bag in three spots, and microwave the baby spinach for three minutes.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a pan.  
  5. Sauté the chopped onion for about five minutes.
  6. Add the steamed spinach to the onion and stir well.
  7. Season with salt, pepper, and cinnamon to taste.
  8. Set the spinach aside and allow it to cool.
  9. Drain the raisins.
  10. In a bowl, blend the four, eggs, matza meal (or ground almonds), one tablespoon of granulated sugar, a pinch of salt, a pinch of cinnamon, raisins, and pine nuts.
  11. Mix the spinach into this batter.
  12. Take a large frying pan, and heat some olive oil in it.
  13. Pour the spinach batter into the frying pan.  Lower the flame to medium, and allow it to cook for a few minutes.  You can check the bottom to see when it turns brown.  When the bottom is brown, flip the frittata over.  
  14. Place the spinach frittata on a serving platter, and sprinkle it with some confectioner’s sugar.

This eggy, spinachy dish is a little bit sweet, and a little bit savory.  It is very satisfying, and works well as a vegetarian main course or a side dish.

All of Ms. Rovati’s recipes are straightforward, without too much fuss.  The featured ingredients are healthy, and the resulting dishes are both delicious and exotic.  This year, add a historic Venetian accent to your Passover Seder.  If you visit Ms. Rovati’s Facebook page, you will note that there are many discussions in Italian about different recipes.  Fortunately for us, her website is in English.  This will help us avoid both pork and vulgar affronts!

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.

The Philadelphia Tu B’Shevat Adventure


Orange Tree

— by Ronit Treatman

What do April 15th and the Shevat 15th have in common? Both are tax days! Two thousand years ago, the 15th of Shevat was when the twelve Hebrew tribes paid tithes to the Levites in Jerusalem. Tu B’Shevat, the fifteenth day of the month of Shevat, is described in the Mishnah as the New Year for Trees. During the times of the Temple, fruit tithes would be calculated beginning on Tu B’Shevat. Fruit that grew on trees after the fifteenth day of Shevat was counted for the tithes that were due the following year. These tithes supported the Levites, helped feed the poor, and paid for Tu B’Shevat festivities in Jerusalem.

Following the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans, the Jews were exiled from Israel, and tithes were no longer paid. The Jews in the Diaspora preserved the memory of Tu B’Shevat by remembering their connection to the Land of Israel. In the Jewish communities of Bukhara, Uzbekistan, and Kurdistan, Tu B’Shevat developed into the “day of eating the seven species.” The seven species are the seven fruits and grains that are listed in the Torah as special products of the Land of Israel. In the 16th century Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the famous mystic of Safed, and his students collaborated to create the Tu B’Shevat Seder. The observance of Tu B’Shevat has undergone many permutations
since that time.

How can you and your family enjoy this ancient holiday in present day Philadelphia?

Some hands-on ideas to bring your families the warming spirit of Tu B’Shevat this winter follow the jump.


Seven Species

The Longwood Gardens Seven Species Scavenger Hunt

This year, Tu B’Shevat begins on February 7th, at sunset, and extends through the daylight of February 8th. This holiday presents a great opportunity to visit Longwood Gardens. The outdoor gardens will probably be covered with snow, so the half mile long hothouse will be your main destination. The conservatory, built in 1919, resembles a crystal palace. As you step inside, you will be transported to a place where spring has already arrived. The warm air will envelop you. Your family will inhale the aroma of a garden in full bloom, see the beautiful colors of the plants, and hear the rustle of leaves and dripping of water as they explore the greenhouse. It will be fun to look for some of the seven species in the gardens. As is mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:8, the Land of Israel is described as a “land of wheat and barley, of [grape] vines, figs and pomegranates, and a land of olives for oil and [date] honey.” Here is a guide to help you find them.


Olive Tree

Grape Vines

Olives: In Biblical times, olive oil was very important for cooking, as a fuel for lamps, and for preparing soap. There is an olive tree in the Silver Garden.

Grapes: The Estate Fruit House has grape vines. In ancient times in the Land of Israel, grapes were used to make wine and vinegar. The fruit was eaten fresh off the vine. The grape leaves were used in cooking.


Figs at the Vine

Pomegranate Tree

Figs: A fig tree grows in The Estate Fruit House. Figs were eaten fresh, and used in cooking in Biblical Israel. Fig honey and alcohol were made from them.

Pomegranates: A miniature pomegranate tree (with tiny red pomegranates!) may be found in the Bonsai Display. In ancient Israel, pomegranates were used to make wine. Pomegranate juice was used as a dye. They were also a popular snack fresh off the tree.



Dates

Wheat

Barley

Dates: The wild date palm grows in the Palm House. Dates were eaten fresh or dry during Biblical times. They were made into honey. It is thought that when the Land of Israel was described as a “land flowing with milk and honey,” it meant date honey, not bees’ honey.

Wheat and Barley: Wheat was used to bake bread in ancient Israel. It was the staple of the people’s diet. Barley was used to cook porridge and barley cakes. Poor people relied on barley more than on wheat, since it was more plentiful. It was also fed to the cows and goats. Wheat and barley do not grow in the greenhouses of Longwood Gardens! I suggest planning in advance and ordering a bundle of wheat and a bundle of barley from Curious Country Creations.

You can bring these plants with you, and your family may admire them during the visit to Longwood Gardens. Then, the wheat and barley may be part of your Tu B’Shevat Seder decorations!

You can inform yourself about the plants that these fruits of the seven species come from, and admire their beauty at Longwood Gardens. After learning about all these beautiful plants by seeing, smelling, and sometimes touching them, it is time to go home and taste some of them! The way to do that is with a Tu B’Shevat feast!


Tu b’Shvat Seder

The Tu B’Shevat Seder

The first Tu B’Shevat Haggadah was called Pri Etz Hadar” or “Fruit of the Goodly Tree” in Hebrew. It was published in 1753. This Tu B’Shevat Seder was modeled on the Passover Seder. This Seder consisted of a festive meal that celebrated the Kabalistic diagram of the Tree of Life. The original purpose of the Seder was to restore G-d’s blessing by repairing and strengthening the Tree of Life. The traditional concluding blessing of the Tu B’Shevat Seder is “May all the sparks scattered by our hands, or by the hands of our ancestors, or by the sin of the first human against the fruit of the tree, be returned and included in the majestic might of the Tree of Life.” Fruits grown in Israel were served at the Seder and were related to the Four Worlds or “planes of existence” in the Kabbalah. These are Emanation, Creation, Formation, and Action, which are like the roots, trunk, branches, and leaves of a tree. Four cups of wine, symbolizing the four seasons, were also served. Participants read Biblical passages that discussed trees, sang songs about trees and nature, and danced dances inspired by trees. Almonds were important to this Seder because almond trees are the first to blossom in the springtime in Israel. The Kabbalists called this Seder the “Feast of Fruits. Turkish Jews called it “Frutikas Seder,” and referred to Tu B’Shevat as “Frutikas.”  You can follow the first published Tu B’Shevat Seder in your own home.


Almond Tree Blossoms

The Tu B’Shevat Seder was first embraced by the Sephardic Jews, and then by the Ashkenazi Jews. The Ashkenazi Jews developed the custom of eating fifteen different fruits in honor of the “Tu” (15 in Hebrew) in “Tu B’Shevat.” It became a tradition to serve carob, a hardy fruit that could travel well from Israel to Europe. Eating etrog (citron) from Sukkot that was either candied or preserved was another custom that developed. In the late 19th century the Zionist pioneers arrived to cultivate the land of Israel. Israel’s ecology had been harmed by many years of war, extirpation of trees, and desertification. In 1890, Rabbi Zeev Yavetz and his students planted trees in Zichron Yaakov in honor of Tu B’Shevat. The Jewish National Fund adopted this custom to help with the reforestation of Israel. Most recently, Tu B’Shevat has become the Jewish Earth Day. Nature, ecology, and environmentalism are celebrated.

In honor of the Tu B’Shevat Seder, your family may have fun making your home look and feel festive, with a tablecloth, some flowers, and the bunches of wheat and barley on the table. Red and white grape juice should be available. The juice should be served as indicated by the Tu B’Shevat Seder Hagaddah of your choice. Several links to free Hagaddas are provided below.


All of the Tu B’Shevat Hagaddot require the following cups of juice:

  • The First Cup: White grape juice, to symbolize winter.
  • The Second Cup: 2/3 cup white grape juice and 1/3 cup red grape juice, to symbolize a progression to spring.
  • The Third Cup: 1/3 cup white grape juice and 2/3 cup red grape juice, to symbolize spring.
  • The Fourth Cup: Red grape juice, to symbolize summer.

Fifteen types of fruit should be arranged on the table:


Almonds

Autumn Red Peaches
  • Fruit that is hard on the outside and soft on the inside:
    • Pecans
    • Almonds
    • Coconuts
    • Walnuts
       
  • Soft fruit with a pit in the middle:
    • Olives
    • Peaches
    • Cherries
    • Plums
    • Dates
       

    Ripe Carobs

    Fragaria Stawberry
  • Fruits with and inner pit and a tough skin:
    • Avocado
    • Carob
    • Pomegranate
    • Mango
    • Orange
  • Fruit is that which is soft on the inside and outside, and is entirely edible:
    • Grape
    • Fig
    • Strawberry
    • Raisin

You may display a picture of an almond tree in full bloom to learn about the first blossoms of spring in Israel. It is customary to serve a dinner which incorporates fruits and nuts in all of its courses.  Here is a sephardic recipe which includes all seven species.

Sephardic Seven Species Pilaf

  • 1 cup cooked barley
  • 1 cup cooked wheat berries
  • 1/2  cup cut up dried figs
  • 1/2 cup cut up dried dates
  • 1/2 cup sliced grapes
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Some very good recipes are available at Aish. There are many other recipes that may be found on the Internet. Following are links to some free Tu B’Shevat Seder Haggadahs that are available online. Many more may be found.

Plant A Tree

Following a visit to Longwood Gardens, and a Tu B’Shevat Seder feast, there is an opportunity to plant a seed and nurture a plant. It is too cold in January to plant a tree in Philadelphia. Your family can plant a tree in Israel with the Jewish National Fund. There is a delightful new tradition that you may adopt. You may plant parsley seeds in a pot. Then water ther seeds, give them plant food, and make sure that they are exposed to enough sunlight. If all goes well, in April, you will have a parsley plant that may be used for Karpas (green spring vegetable) in the Passover Seder.

From Seder to Seder, may it be a fruitful year of joyful celebrations!

What Did My Foremothers Eat? What My DNA Analysis Revealed!

— by Ronit Treatman

Where did my ancestors live?  What was their culture and cuisine like?  I have some oral family history to work with, but I have always wished that there were some scientific way to know.  In the year 2003, the Human Genome Project announced that it had mapped the approximately 25,000 genes of the human genome.  Gene Base founded “the world’s first online personal genomics DNA database” in 2005.  They offer DNA tests to help you trace your ancestral routes. I could finally find out how much of the oral tradition was correct, and what was unknown or forgotten.  Last summer I decided to take the test.

More after the jump.
My family did this test with Gene Base.  To get the best results, you need a brother and a sister.  The brother’s cheek swab will reveal where all the males in the family came from.  The sister’s will do the same for the females.  My brother and I scrubbed the inside of our cheeks with the special swabs, shipped them off to a laboratory in Canada, and waited for the results.

About two months later, the analysis was complete.  Some of it was true to the family narrative.  On the male side, the arrow went directly from the Near East to Bukhara (in modern day Uzbekistan).  My family remained there, part of an isolated community, for a very long time.  The matrilineal analysis revealed a surprise.  This is the Ashkenazi side of the family.  According to the DNA analysis, these ancestors had lived in Catalonia for hundreds of years.  They left when the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492.  Even more amazingly, I was able to extract the name of a city: Girona!  I had never heard of it before.

Girona, or Gerona, is an ancient city that lies northeast of Barcelona.  It is a charming place on the banks of the Onyar River.  In the 12th century, it was home to a large Jewish community.  Rabbi Moses ben Naḥman Girondi.  (better known as Nahmanides or Ramban) headed one of the most important Kabbalistic schools in Europe here.  He was selected to defend the Jewish position in the Barcelona Disputation of 1263.  This was a debate in The Grand Royal Palace between the Ramban and Pau Cristia, a Jew who had converted to Catholicism.  The purpose of this debate was to convince the Jews to covert to Christianity.  Nahmanides won.

The preservation of the Jewish remnants of Girona occurred thanks to Joaquim Nadal i Farreras.  A historian, and the mayor of Girona, he made sure to preserve the remains of Rabbi Nahmanides’ Yeshiva when they were uncovered during a construction project during the 1970s.

What was my family’s life like in Girona?  They lived in the Call, or Jewish Ghetto.  The Jewish community was called The Aljama.  The Call was self-governed by Jews, and taxes were paid directly to the king of Catalonia.  Jews were merchants, bookbinders, and businessmen.  Life revolved around the synagogue, mikveh, and of course meals!

What was there to eat?  My family in Catalonia ate well!  The food is Mediterranean, with lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, and meat.  The cooking shows the influence of Spanish, Arabic, and Jewish cultures.  Catalan food is famous for its base of five sauces: Sofregit, Samfaina, Picada, Alioli, and Romesco.

Sofregit

  • 1tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 6 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  1. Place a heavy Dutch oven over a low flame.  Heat the olive oil.  
  2. When the oil is hot, add the onions.  Cook the onions uncovered until they are golden.  
  3. Add the tomatoes, stir, and cover the pot.  
  4. Cook the tomatoes and onions until all the liquid has evaporated.  

Samfaina

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 6 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 eggplant, cubed
  • 1 zucchini, cubed
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  1. Place the chopped eggplant in a colander, and sprinkle with salt.  
  2. Place a heavy Dutch oven over a low flame.  Heat the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the onions.  Cook the onions uncovered until they are golden.  
  3. Add the garlic, and salt to taste.  
  4. Rinse the eggplant with cold water, and pat dry with paper towels.
  5. Add the eggplant, zucchini, and peppers to the pot.  Stir and add black pepper to taste.
  6. Cover the pot and allow to cook over low heat for two hours.  

Picada

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 6 roasted, salted almonds
  • 6 roasted, salted hazelnuts
  • 2 cups of bread, preferably baguette, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil (preferably Catalan)
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pot.  Add the cubed bread.  Stir the bread in the hot oil until it is toasted.  
  2. Place the toasted bread and all the other ingredients in a food processor.  Grind everything together until it becomes a paste.  

Alioli
Fittingly named “garlic and oil,” alioli is truly an Old World condiment.  You need a mortar and pestle to prepare this.  

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1-cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  1. Pound the 3 peeled garlic cloves with a mortar and pestle.  
  2. Slowly add the olive oil while you pound to incorporate it.
  3. Add the salt and pound everything together.

Romesco

  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 chili pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of mint leaves
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 12 marcona almonds
  • 24 hazelnuts
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup of toasted bread cubes, preferably baguette

  1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Roast the tomatoes and garlic for 15 minutes.
  3. Place the all the ingredients in a food processor.  Puree them together until you have a smooth paste.

As I sit munching some fresh bread spread with this delicious Romesco sauce, I wonder about my family in Catalonia.  What were their last names?  Since this discovery comes from the female side of the family, I have no surnames to work with.  I peruse the digitized list of the Jewish last names of Gerona saved by the Inquisition.  I pronounce them out loud to myself, wondering if they could have been my ancestors.  One of the names that appears is Borges.  I remember my Spanish literature teacher; Mr. Carlos Berrendero, telling me that Argentinian writer Gorge Luis Borges, author of the short story El Aleph, was obsessed with the idea that perhaps his family were conversos (forced converts to Catholicism).  Borges did not have access to this list in his lifetime.  His hunch may have been correct.  

I grew up with the culture of Sefarad, since I lived for many years in Venezuela.  I loved everything about it: the food, the language, the stories, the music.  It never occurred to me that it was part of my heritage too!  Following the expulsion from Spain in 1492, the rabbis issued a cherem (judgement of excommunication) that Jews were not to enter Spain for the next 500 years.  This period ended in 1992.  Now that the cherem is over, I would love retrace the footsteps of my ancestors with a visit to Girona.  

 

Gourmet Gelt

First Maccabbee coin with cornucopiae.

— by Ronit Treatman

Did you know that the Hasmoneans minted the first Jewish coins in history?  Those ancient bronze coins have been reinvented as chocolate treats we eat during Hanukkah.  The mass marketed Hanukkah coins are beautifully molded but made of low quality chocolate.  This year, you can get creative and have fun making your own gourmet chocolate gelt for your Hanukkah celebration.

More after the jump.

Last coin minted by the Maccabees Chocolate Gelt by Elite.

For the Maccabees, minting their own coins was an expression of self-governance and freedom.  In the middle Ages, a tradition developed in Eastern Europe to give Hanukkah gelt (money) to teachers and needy Yeshiva students.  The connection was made between the Hebrew root for Chanukah and Chinuch (education), which is Chanech.  Chanech means “educate” or “mold.”  When I was a girl, this tradition was carried over to the types of gifts we received for Hanukkah.  They were educational gifts such as books, art supplies, and tickets to museum exhibits or concerts.  

How were these ancient Maccabee coins transformed into the chocolate coins that are ubiquitous today?  In the 1920s, American chocolate producers were inspired to create chocolate coins.  These coins were wrapped in gold and silver foil, and sold in little mesh bags.  Currently, the Israeli chocolatiers Elite and Carmit dominate the Hanukkah gelt market.  Their coins are molded with the image of the menorah that was found on the last coin minted by the Maccabees 2,000 years ago.  

A fun, creative, and delicious activity during Hanukkah is making your own artisanal Hanukkah coins.  The best type of chocolate for this is called couverture chocolate.  Couverture means covering in French.  This type of chocolate is made only from premium cacao beans.  It has a high percentage of cocoa butter (36% to 39%).  Due to this higher proportion of cocoa butter, couverture chocolate is richer and creamier than regular chocolate, and has a beautiful, glossy shine after it is tempered and cooled.  When you bite into a Hanukkah coin made from tempered couverture chocolate, it will snap in your mouth!  This snap, rather than a crumble, is an indication of superior quality.  You can order kosher couverture chocolate from Guittard, Scharffen Berger, Bonnat, Barry Callebaut, Chocolate Santander, and Dagoba.  Dagoba is also organic.  These companies begin with green cacao beans, which they roast.  They make their own chocolate from bean to bar.    

To make your chocolate coins, you will need a confectionary coin mold.  You may purchase a mold at fine cookware stores like Fante’s.  I also found specialty Hanukkah gelt molds online at Concepts in Candy.  Alternatively, you may use mini muffin baking cups.  

You will need to temper your chocolate.  “Temper” means that the chocolate will need to be heated, then cooled in its mold.  Once you have placed the melted chocolate into the mold, you may personalize it by adding Marcona almonds, toasted hazelnuts, candied orange peels, fleur de sel (hand-harvested sea salt), or any other favorite ingredient to it.  Allow the chocolate coins to harden at room temperature.  You may then carefully extract them from their molds, and wrap them with gold or silver foil.

By tempering premium couverture chocolate, with a possible addition of your own favorite secret ingredients, you can make really delicious artisanal chocolate coins.  As the Old Italian saying goes, this Hanukkah gelt will be made of “chocolate so good that it will eat itself!”

Sufganyiot Gone Wild!

— by Ronit Treatman

What is the most Israeli of Hanukkah foods?  The sufganyia!  Sufganyiot are special doughnuts that are prepared only during the eight days of Hanukkah in Israel.  The traditional sufganyia is a vanilla doughnut, injected with strawberry jam, then sprinkled with powdered sugar.  In the past few years Israeli bakers have begun to express their creativity with sufganyiot serving as their canvas.  They incorporate such local specialties as sesame seeds and Sabra liqueur into their sufganyiot.  For a special festive touch this Hanukkah, you can fry up a batch of your own mini-sufganyiot.  They are great for parties, and for letting your imagination soar.  

Recipes follow the jump.
Here is the basic dough for sufganyiot.

Basic Sufganiyot Dough

  • 1 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 or 3 drops of vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cups flour

    Dough:

  1. In a bowl, mix the warm water, sugar, and dry yeast.  
  2. Allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Then add all the other ingredients.  
  4. Knead them into a soft dough.  
  5. Cover the bowl with a towel, and leave in a warm place for 2 hours.  

If you are pressed for time, you may use frozen, raw challah dough to make sufgayiot.  You can order frozen Kosher challah dough online from Wenner Bread Products.  

Just thaw the dough, form little balls, and fry your sufganyiot.

To prepare the sufganyiot, pinch off 2-inch pieces of dough, and roll them into balls.  Heat the vegetable oil in a pan.  Keep the oil at a temperature of 360-375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Fry your sufganyiot, then drain them on a paper towel.  

Traditional Sufganiyot

  1. Begin with the basic sufganyiot dough.
  2. Fry your sufganyiot.
  3. Inject some strawberry jam into the sufganyiot.
  4. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  5. Eat them while they are still warm!

Halvah is the Israeli peanut butter.  Ubiquitous and widely consumed, this sweet sesame confection has now found its way into sufganyiot.

Halvah Cream Sufganyiot
Prepare the basic sufganyiot dough above.  

Creamy Halvah Filling

  • Halvah
  • Cream

Place halvah chunks in a blender.  Slowly add heavy cream and mix it until it reaches the desired consistency.  Pipe it into the sufganyiot.  Sprinkle the sufganyiot with powdered sugar.

In order to have a really good time during Hanukkah, some people like to inject a little liquor into their sufganyiot.  The liquor of choice is Sabra liqueur, which is locally produced by the Carmel Winery.  It comes in a beautiful bottle whose design is based on a 2000-year old Phoenician wine flask discovered by Israeli archaeologists.  Sabra liqueur is made with bitter chocolate and Israeli oranges.  Sabra now also offers a coffee liqueur and a brandy flavored with oranges.  Any of these liqueurs will do in the following recipe.  

“Drunk” Sabra Liqueur Sufganyiot With Chocolate Ganache

Prepare the basic sufganiyot dough.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 16 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 cups heavy cream

  1. Heat the heavy cream in the microwave for about 4 minutes.  Do not let it boil.  
  2. Place the finely chopped chocolate in a bowl.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate.  Stir briskly until the mixture becomes smooth and silky.

Assemble the sufganyiot:

  1. Fry your mini sufganyiot.
  2. Blot on a paper towel.
  3. Inject 1/2 teaspoon full (or to taste) of Sabra liqueur in each sufganyia.
  4. Dip the sufganyiot in the chocolate ganache.

This Hanukkah surprise your guests or hosts with inspired homemade mini-sufganyiot.  Bring your own creativity to this basic Israeli Hanukkah staple.  

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.