Category Archives: Glossary

Ajada (Q & A and a recipe)

Hi Janet,

My mother used to make what we called Ajada. It was made with soaked bread, eggs, fresh garlic and lemon juice. It was mixed and mashed together and we used it as a dip for meat. What is the origin of this food?   Is it Turkish or Spanish or Greek?  I would love a recipe if one is available.  Did I ask this question before?  Thanks and wish I could come and take a class with you.


Good question, Estelle.

Ajada, a traditional Sephardic condiment, has its roots right here where I live in the north western Mediterranean and is just one member of a broad category of emulsions that are used at table to flavor savory meals – meats, fish, soups, stews, vegetables, you name it.  The word ajada is Ladino and translates loosely as ‘a thing made of/with garlic’ which, along with olive oil, is the basic recipe for the whole category.  Between Catalan, Spanish, French, Langue d’Òc, Italian and umpteen different dialects of each, garlic & oil emulsion goes by at least a dozen different spellings, among them alioli, aioli, alhòli, alloli, ajjoli, aillade, and ajada. The French word in the group, aillade, is equivalent in structure to the Ladino ajada.  The others you see here are all compound words, in various Romance languages, that mean garlic (allium – of the onion family) and oil (oleum).   And with this many variations in the spelling alone, you can easily imagine the countless variations in the recipe – Continue reading


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PEPITADA (“peh-pi-TAH-dtha”) is a Ladino word indicating a beverage ‘made from fruit pip (seeds)’.  The “-ada” suffix is the equivalant of “-ade” in English, as in lemonade.  Pepitada is a milky-looking drink made by steeping crushed melon seeds in cold water, straining them and adding a little sugar and perhaps a few drops of orange flower essence, rosewater or honey (the secondary flavorings vary regionally throughout the Mediterranean).  You think the makers of Gatorade were innovators? Pepitada is a straightforward health tonic: easy on the stomach, refreshing and loaded with potassium, it replenishes electrolytes.  Pepitada is mostly associated with breaking fasts (perhaps especially the fast of Tisha b’Av, which falls in summer smack in the the middle of melon season) but is also an excellent means of coping with the intense heat of deep summer.


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MINA (“MI-nä”) is an Ottoman Sephardic savory pie made from ground beef, onion and spring herbs, bound with eggs and sandwiched between layers of matza (moistened, of course).  In my experience it is a specialty of Rhodes, where it is a star of the Passover repertoire.  However, it is nearly identical to Algerian Sephardic méguena in all except its use of matza, which the Algerian recipe dispenses with altogether in the versions I am familiar with. (Algeria was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1536 to 1830 and had a substantial Jewish community).

There are vegetable minas as well; however, mina is not simply another kind of cuajado.  A true mina contains no cheese, and eggs serve to bind the filling without dominating its appearance or texture. 

As with mustachudos, mina offers another fine example of how symbolism is incorporated into Sephardic recipes, in this case repeating elements of the Seder plate: parsley and eggs to represent springtime and renewal and matza, of course, the unleavened bread of the Exodus that is eaten throughout the week-long holiday.  Mina is served cut in large squares, which bring to my mind the bricks of the Egyptian pyramids – in shape only, as a well-made mina is delicate, moist and intoxicatingly delicious!


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masapan_-ojaldres_-mustachudos1MUSTACHUDOS  (“mōō-stä-CHŌŌ-thōs”)  Here is a prime example of the way in which many Sephardic foods are infused with symbolism.

As a general rule, Sephardic custom doesn’t call much for cooking with wine. There are exceptions, of course, and these can be unusual enough as to impact the name of the recipe in question.  During Passover, any wine consumed must be ‘new’; this means using either grape juice or young wine that is kosher for Passover.  The mustachudo gets its name from this specific ingredient:  musto in Ladino; mosto in Spanish and Italian, must in English. The name has absolutely nothing to do with ‘little moustaches’, despite the similar-sounding root word. Continue reading


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