Homemade Challah with Honey

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Challah is the quintessential Jewish Sabbath and holiday bread.  Bread baked from the staff of life has a spiritual essence that affirms our connection to the earth’s harvest and sustains us.  This Challah is sweet and moist.  It has a long stranded texture, Continue reading

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Cheese and Potato Borekas

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Consumed in great quantities, loved by all, the flaky dough and flavorful fillings beckon you to eat yet another one, the irresistible Boreka.  Borekas are usually a savory but occasionally sweet filled turnover.  There are many kinds of dough and infinite variety of fillings.  Various versions can be found in Turkey, in Israel and throughout the Middle East.Sephardic Jews or broadly speaking those with Spanish origins, from Turkey and the Greek Island of Rhodes traditionally eat Continue reading

Dateline: Two Days Before Rosh Hashanah

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Every year as soon as the days start getting shorter, my instinct to start preparing for Rosh Hashanah kicks in.  Three weeks ago I placed an order with the kosher butcher and wrote out my menu plans for several dinners.  I started baking as well.  I am not preparing for one evenings celebration Continue reading

A Sephardic Rosh Hashanah

053A Sephardic Tradition for Rosh Hashanah

My family has a unique culinary heritage, migrating from the Holy Land to Spain; my ancestors lived and flourished in the Golden Age for centuries.  The Golden Age was a time of religious tolerance in Spain’s history from around 711  to the 13th century, an age of civility, poetry, enlightened medicine, and delightful cuisine.  If you visit Spain today, you will find influences in art, architecture, poetry and the ethnic makeup of the people left from their presence in cities like Toledo, Barcelona, and Seville.  The history of Spain is full of famous Jewish physicians and various advisors to the ruling caliphate.

When times changed and Jews faced the cruel expulsion edict by Queen Isabella (1492), my ancestors chose an escape route, heading east, along Mediterranean shores.  Ultimately, they settled in parts of the Ottoman Empire, centered in Turkey.  The Sephardic people took this route at the Sultan’s invitation, as he welcomed us into his lands.

The Sephardim settled in exotic places like Salonika, Rhodes,tuulijumala090800025runamock090200007and Turkish cities and towns.  In these Mediterranean, cerulean blue skied islands and coastal towns my family found a safe haven where they would flourish.  They lived a gracious life style with family and friends, indulging in the abundance of regional foods with which to create holidays and celebrations.  From an elaborate afternoon coffee time called La Tavla de Dulce (the tray of sweets) to this Rosh Hashanah feast, my mother, grandmother, and great grandmothers used local fresh ingredients.

The influences from Spain to the Eastern Mediterranean on the cuisine of the Sephardim were truly incredible.  This part of the globe features much  fine cooking and sophiscated flavors.  Jewish dietary law with rules about useable ingredients and combining gives the cuisine a unique difference.

Now that I represent the next generation of Sephardic home cooks I put my American influence into the mix and the cuisine continues to evolve.  Sephardic Jewish cuisine is a culinary heritage, rich in the diversity of vegetables, grains, fruits, honey, and spices that reflect the regions traveled by my family.  Some of the best ritualized tasting happens at the Jewish New Year’s Eve dinner, after sundown.

Our tradition is to make a Seder, Continue reading

Pastelicos (meat and rice borekas)

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Pastelicos are triangular borekas with a savory meat and rice filling.  As with other Sephardic pastry, you can find versions in different shapes, with different dough and different spice blends.  This is the recipe my mother always made, but with the addition of the cinnamon and allspice.  A Pastel is a pie in Ladino or Judeo Spanish, and these individual small ‘pies’ use the suffix indicating smallness.  Crispy, savory, and beautiful, Continue reading