What do you call a Sephardic butter pastry (besides divine)?

My grandmother was born in Turkey and used to make bourekas and montees, which were essentially the same but shaped differently. The bourekas were turnovers filled with potato and cheese or rice or meat and onions, or spinaca. The montees used the same dough (oil, water, flour), but were made like spiral spanakopita. I’ve never found any info on montees anywhere on the web, and everyone I could ask is gone. Have you heard of them and can you tell me the origin of the name?
Thanks very much
Len

Sure, Len!

First, let’s get you back on track with the spelling. “Montee” should be mantí, a pastry better known as mantikos.

Though your grandmother made her mantí from an oil dough, the name refers to its original star ingredient: butter. The word comes from manteca. In modern Spanish usage, “manteca” on its own brings to mind lard – emulsified pig fat – but the formal meaning indicates any emulsified fat derived from animals or plants. In the past, the specific fat was understood from context; under kosher law the consumption of fat from cow, sheep, and goat meats is forbidden, hence in a Sephardic kitchen, manteca would only mean butter. Continue reading

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On dining every day, even over pizza.

To read so many recipe columns, you’d think Sephardic Jews eat nothing but lavish, exotic party food. Well, there is life between holidays and social visits, and it is no less enjoyable.

Everyday meals, as much as holiday food, define our cuisine and our philosophy about eating. In examining them what comes through is the value we place not only on food that tastes good but on healthful eating, and sharing a pleasant experience at the table. Though not every day is a festival, every meal should be special, no matter how uncomplicated the recipes.

Some basic ingredients of the Sephardic kitchen.

Some everyday ingredients from a Sephardic kitchen – mine!

Balanced composition, good fresh ingredients, and a few simple techniques are all you need to make a delicious Sephardic meal every day – that and a properly set table. Jewish dietary laws aside, we are rigorous about the content, composition and presentation of our meals. Eating is also a time to take pause and enjoy one another’s company. You’d think these concepts are universal, but I have eaten among people who slap slop on the table, let the forks and knives fall where they may, clutch them like shovels, have no use for napkins, and clear the table while people are still eating. (I have dined among savages). Continue reading

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Boyos de rayu (Boyikos)

Editor’s note: When I first wrote this post in 2009, it was before I’d sorted out certain details about our food names, and I referred to the biscuits as boyos de rayo, rather than the diminutive boyikos de rayo, which is correct. The comments that followed, which are still posted here, reflected that omission, and it was quite a conversation! This post from November 2012 explains how the Ladino diminutive is used in our food names, so I won’t repeat it here. The recipe link was broken, too! It’s fixed now and re-posted, for those who missed it the first time around. :)

 

Everybody loves a good cheese biscuit with drinks, and this is ours. Boyos de rayo are crumbly, yeast-free, oil and cheese biscuits. They’re delicious on their own, but in a meze with preserved fish – lakerda or palamida, olives, maybe some potato ajada, and a chilled wine or raki (Turkish anisette), you could snack happily to satiety.

Boyos de rayo aren’t really buns at all [and should properly be called Continue reading

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Esther Amateau Pergament

Great Aunt Esther

August 22, 1914 – October 20, 2014
“Born on the Island of Rhodes the youngest of nine children, she immigrated to America in 1929. Educated, talented, and beautiful, she met her husband of 43 years in New York. On the day they met, Harvey was asked by his brother, “What do you think of the Spanish woman?” His reply, “She doesn’t know the time of day, but I’m going to marry her.” They married in 1942 and moved to Los Angeles in 1945, where they set up their home, and then proceeded to travel the world.
She is known by her extended family and friends for her traditional Sephardic cooking and hospitality.”
 
Esther will be remembered with tremendous love and affection for the joy she brought our family.
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