When it’s cold, gray and pouring rain outdoors, it’s a treat to be indoors pouring over a cookbook full of warm inspiration from sunnier places. Lately I’ve been doing just that in a tiny rural town in Galicia, where I’ve been on an extended visit since last summer, wrestling my ancestors and reacclimating, after fifteen years in the Mediterranean, to an Atlantic climate. Sunny Portugal may be a stone’s throw from my doorstep, but winter here has felt more like the Orkneys (right now it feels like Siberia) – minus a crackling fire, or good scotch, to keep me warm.
For that, I’ve got Jennifer Abadi’s new cookbook, Too Good to Passover: Sephardic & Judeo-Arabic Seder Menus and Memories from Africa, Asia, and Europe, and so far, it’s doing a fine job.
A good idea is only as good as your ability to get it done, so I was pleased to see this book finished at last after nine years in the making. At more than 670 pages, it was a huge undertaking, and worth the long wait. Abadi, author of A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes from Grandma Fritzie’s Kitchen, was relentless in her pursuit of Passover memoirs, family traditions, and recipes from communities of the non-Ashkenazic world – many of them not often heard from, or even about, or now only extant in exile. What began as a simple inquiry into different Passover traditions (Abadi’s original idea was to build a framework for recipes she teaches in her cooking classes), became a commitment to honor the communities and families that shaped them.
Whenever Sephardic food is mentioned, our thoughts typically go straight to baked goods. This is where Linda Capeloto Sendowski has focused her first cookbook, Sephardic Baking from Nona and More Favorites.
Linda Sendowski grew up in Seattle in the 1950’s, luxuriating in the tastes and aromas of her mother’s and grandmother’s traditional Sephardic kitchens. Her own baking reflects that environment in the best possible way; the book invites you to experience Sephardic baking as warm and welcoming comfort food, a beautiful, rustic treat for all the senses.
What constitutes Sephardic food? Beyond the traditional recipes so easily recognizable as “ours” – the borekas, boyos, haminados, etc. – our cuisine has been shaped by religion, migration, and a complex history. We are not just cooks; we are guardians of our culture and heritage. This responsibility always weighs on the mind of a serious Sephardic cook. Yet we are also enthusiastic assimilators. Both spirits are at work in Sendowski’s recipes.
The majority are classics from Çanakkale and Rhodes, with a few Sephardic and Ashkenazi selections from other continents, and others of her own invention. Everything comes together through Sendowski’s filter and the sure hand she inherited from her mother, whose memory and bendichas manos she lovingly honored by making this book. Continue reading
The article I’d planned on posting next is so grisly, I just can’t post it now. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins tomorrow, and with it a very beautiful season of renewal. So I’ve set the article aside, but not without sharing that with each grisly discovery or insight I have into history, the more deeply I appreciate being able to celebrate my holidays, eat my foods and just be my authentic self. This is something I truly wish for all people. Αll. The world would be a sweeter place.
On Rosh Hashana we wish for a sweet new year. The theme is traditionally emphasized by eating honey, whereas beans, often in the form of black eyed peas, are consumed to encourage abundance and prosperity. Eating beans for prosperity is a Sephardic New Year tradition, though we’re not alone; on December 31st Italians eat lentils for the same reason, and modern Spaniards eat twelve grapes at the stroke of midnight. Continue reading
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