Hold the cheesecake; I’ll take sutlatch

Raise your hand if you’re not sure what Shavuot is about.

This very nice holiday commemorates the Jewish people’s receiving the Torah – from God! – on Mount Sinai. Needless to say a pivotal moment, and this was after they’d fled Egypt and slavery, and been traipsing around the desert for seven weeks trying to sort themselves out. That was quite a spring, full of momentous occasions, big decisions, and major commitments.

This year the holiday begins on June 3. If you’re so inclined, a few days from now you’ll be staying up all night in a Torah study group somewhere, which is what people do to observe Shavuot, and maybe still wondering what to cook, because of course there’s a meal before the all-nighter. Or you might be worrying about what’s on the menu, if you’re not doing the cooking, and with good reason. In Ashkenazi tradition, the night kicks off with a dairy fest: cheesecake, cheese blintzes with sour cream, and I don’t know what else. Everything served should be white and have started out inside a sheep, a goat or a cow. Continue reading

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Hag Pesah Sameah!

Wishing everyone a delicious, beautiful, and happy Passover!

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Sephardic women built the Pyramids (and called them mustachudos)

That’s ridiculous. Everyone knows they were built by extraterrestrials…

Whatever your own theory about who built the pyramids (bricks and mortar, bricks and mortar), several hundred years ago my female ancestors chose to commemorate the monumental labor with a monumental Passover cookie: the mustachudo.

 

Mustachudos (hazelnut spice pyramids from Rhodes)

Hazelnut mustachudos (Sephardic spice pyramids)

Any Sephardi whose family came from Rhodes (and a few other places) has some kind of mustachudo recipe. Mustachudos are soft, chewy cookies made from ground nuts. They weren’t always shaped like these neat little pyramids. That’s my doing. Continue reading

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One for the Seder plate: Harosi

Harosi isn’t just for the Seder plate. Make a good one and you’ll find any excuse to eat it.

Malus domestica, from Medizinal-Pflanzed by Franz Eugen Köhler (1897)(This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.)

Malus domestica, from Medizinal-Pflanzed by Franz Eugen Köhler (1897) This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.

 

So long as my grandfather was alive, making harosi each year was one of his favorite cooking projects. He made huge batches of it. Vats! At the Seder there were always a few large bowls of it on the table, and on our way home Gramps would gift each family member a jar or two – personalized with our names, and swaddled in acres of paper toweling and rubber bands – so we could keep spreading the love throughout the week of Passover. We spread it on matza. We spread it on cake. On cheese. Over ice cream.  On spoons – it’s great straight from the jar.  Ottoman Sephardim alreay eat spoon sweets, and to us harosi is just one more. Continue reading

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