Shabbat Toldot and the week prior to Thanksgiving in the United States. In Toldot (generations) we learn about a lentil stew between brothers, and we study about a few generations (perfect for the week before many American Jewish collect the generations and share a turkey)
To food writers across the United States, the week before Thanksgiving is their superbowl. It is a cliche, but true. Food sections in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and Food & Wine magazine go all out and share dozens of recipes. The New York Times gave a regional recipe for every U.S. State and some territories; The LA Times shared the most perfect menus from their top four writers; The Globe had the editor’s top ten recipes; and The WaPo had a vegan pumpkin pie.
But I decided to focus on some JEWISH SOUL FOOD, courtesy of Israeli author Janna Gur. Gur was born in Riga, Latvia, when it was part of the USSR. In 1974, as a teen, she emigrated to Israel with her family, and is currently a top rated food editor (Al Hashulchan) and cookbook author (The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey, 2008). (Her maternal grandparents hailed from Kishinev in Bessarabia)
For many of her selected soul foods, she gives their cultural name, the English description, and the region of its source. Regions include Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Iraqi, Middle Eastern, Yemeni, American, Turkish, Israeli, Syrian (and Allepan), Egyptian, Moroccan, Kurdish, Libyan, Ukranian, Russian, Algerian, Romanian (Bessarabian) and Bulgarian. Some of the soulfoods that she translates are Krupnick, Kneidlach, Gondalach, Borscht, H’rira, Kuku Sabzi, Messayir, Chersh, Forschmak, Ushpalau, Fesanjan, and… Goulash. many of the recipes are from Ruth Oliver, a twentieth generation resident of Jerusalem. She also includes four online sources for ingredients, including the retailer: Kalustyans.
The standout recipes that she has thankfully preserved are too numerous to list, but include: Spicy Carrot Salad; Beet Salad with Cumin and Cinnamon (roast the beets on coarse slat instead of boiling, brings out more flavor); Tangy Sweet Orange and Salty Black Olives Salad; Blues Ones and Red Ones (blue eggplants with red tomatoes (straight from her grandmother); Mashawia; Chopped Liver with More onion than liver a la Chef Omer Miller; or Chopped Liver a la Chef Erez Komarovsky which uses leeks instead of onions and crusts the liver in cumin, mustard seed and peppercorns.
Also there are Syrian Meatballs with Sour Cherries from Chef Pini Levi whose family hailed from Urfa Turkey (close to Abraham’s birthplace, perhaps); Stuffed Cabbage with Sauerkraut; Beef and Pottao Sofrito; Shakshuka; Mujaddara; Bulgarian Pre-Sabbath Pabbath Casserole with Cottage Cheese; Strudel; Plum Dumplings; a babka; Kubaneh (a Yemenite slow baking overnight 6+ hour Shabbat Bread); Jerusalem Kugel; Chicken Noodle Hamin; Chreime (Tunisian Fish Stew) versus Moroccan Fish Stew (use halibut); Algerian Passover Green Chicken Soup; and Bimuelos (honeyed Hanukkah Puffs)
Note: Hey Amit Farber… what is up with the suggestive pickles on the book’s cover?
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Herbed Fish Balls with Jerusalem Artichokes, Tomatoes and Saffron
(Here’s a recipe with Moroccan origins using fish.)
So many goodies in one dish that is fun to cook and a pleasure to serve. Peeling Jerusalem artichokes (also called sunchokes) is a bit time-consuming, but the flavor of this vegetable is so lovely that it is worth the trouble. When in season, use fresh ripe tomatoes; the rest of the year, canned ones are a better alternative. In Jewish Moroccan homes, this dish is reserved for Friday-night dinners and special occasions.
For the Fish Balls:
1 lb. meaty white fish, such as cod, tilapia or halibut, finely chopped or minced
1?2 bunch fresh cilantro (mostly leaves), finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1?2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp. ground cumin
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Sauce:
1?4 cup olive oil
10 garlic cloves
2 onions, chopped
4 ripe tomatoes, diced (or 1 can (14. oz) crushed tomatoes)
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1?2 bunch fresh cilantro (mostly stems), chopped
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
11?2 tsps. sweet paprika
1?2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 lbs. Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into coarse chunks
21?2 cups water
15 saffron threads soaked in 1?2 cup lukewarm water.
To prepare the fish balls, grate the onion and place in a coarse strainer over a large bowl.
Add the fish, cilantro, garlic, egg, bread crumbs, cumin, salt and pepper. Knead thoroughly with your hands for a couple of minutes. Refrigerate the mixture for 1 hour.
To prepare the sauce, pour the olive oil into a large wide pan and immediately add the garlic cloves. Saute on medium heat only until fragrant, then add the onions. Season with salt and saute until translucent.
Add the tomatoes and celery and saute for 2 minutes. Add the cilantro, cumin, paprika and cayenne and stir well, Add the artichokes and water. Bring to a boil and lower the heat. Add the saffron (with the liquid) and cook, partially covered for 20 minutes.
Wet your hands or rub them with oil and form fish balls the size of a walnut. Slide the balls into the pan with the sauce, making sure they are submerged in the sauce (add more water, if necessary), and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve over couscous.
Variations: You can substitute 1 lb. of quartered artichoke hearts for the Jerusalem artichokes.
Substitute the same amount of ground chicken (combine dark and white chicken meat for extra juiciness) for the fish.
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PLAU B’JEEJ | Chicken with Almonds and Raisins over Red Rice (Iraqi)
First the chicken is cooked in water, tomato paste, and spices, then the spiced cooking liquid is used to make delicious red rice. Clever, huh? And there is more: While the rice is cooking, the chicken is shredded; slowly sautéed with onions, almonds, and raisins; and then served over the rice. Grandma’s cooking at its best! Save any leftover red rice—it makes a delicious side for beef, chicken, and fish dishes.
Serves 4 to 6
4 chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks)
5 cups water
7 ounces (200 g) tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Pinch of hot paprika or cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cups long-grain white rice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large onions, thinly sliced
Pinch of hot paprika or ground turmeric (optional)
1 teaspoon baharat spice mix
½ cup blanched almonds (halved or slivered)
½ cup golden raisins
For garnish (optional)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
¹?³ cup blanched almonds (halved or slivered)
1. Place the chicken legs in a medium saucepan. Mix the water, tomato paste, cumin, paprika, and cayenne (if using) in a bowl. Pour over the chicken. Par¬tially cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 1 hour over low heat until the chicken is tender. Toward the end of cooking, taste and season with salt.
2. While the chicken is cooking, soak the rice in water for 15 minutes. Rinse in cold water several times until the water runs clear. Drain in a colander.
3. Remove the cooked chicken to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Measure 3½ cups of hot cooking liquid and return it to the saucepan. Add 1 heaping teaspoon salt. Add the rice and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover tightly, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Open the lid, fluff the rice with a fork, cover, and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. While the rice is cooking, heat the vegetable oil in a large shallow sauce-pan. Add the sliced onions and sauté over medium-low heat until soft and golden, at least 10 minutes. Season with salt, a dash of turmeric (if using), and the baharat.
5. When the chicken is cooled enough to be handled with bare hands, remove and discard the skin and the bones. Shred the meat into small pieces and add to the onions. Add the almonds and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes over medium heat. Add the raisins and sauté for another minute.
6. Prepare the garnish (if using) Heat the vegetable oil in a small frying pan and toss the almonds until golden and crisp. To serve, mound the chicken and onion mixture over the rice and garnish with toasted almonds.
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Erez’s chopped liver
This version of chopped liver will give you a clue why Erez Komarovsky is my favorite Israeli chef. In his version of this Jewish classic, he replaces fried onions with oodles of slowly sautéed leeks, chops livers with a knife (or crushes them with a mortar and pestle) and serves the dish with spicy beet chutney.
Ingredients (serves 12)
1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) fresh clean chicken livers
3/4 cup fruity olive oil
5-6 large leeks (white and the green parts) thinly sliced
1 tablespoon whole white peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole green peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
coarse sea salt
Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a large skillet or a wide shallow pan and gently sauté the leeks uncovered for half an hour and they are very soft, making sure they don’t brown.
Crush peppercorns, cumin and mustard seeds with a mortar and pestle or in a coffee/spice grinder.
Brush livers with a little oil and coat them with spices.
Thoroughly heat a heavy iron cast skillet and brown the livers 2-3 minutes on each side, be careful not overcook them.
Chop the livers with a large heavy knife, mix with leeks and serve promptly with beet chutney.