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
Homeroom’s over. Sit up straight and pay attention.
If you take a look at transliterated Arabic some time (I’m dreaming, aren’t I), you’ll find the roots of a lot that’s Spanish. Arabic-speaking people ran the peninsula for hundreds of years; they left more of a linguistic legacy than just the word for meatballs. They also introduced many foods, including one in particular – fideos – that anyone whose cooking has deep roots in Spain thinks of as their own. Which after so many centuries making the stuff, it is, across Latin America and in Sephardic homes wherever in the world you may find them.
Today, fideos is Spanish for noodles in general, but originally it referred to a category of dry pastas made from durum wheat. This post is about words, not wheat. Continue reading
Filed under History, Recipes
This just in: The Spanish Inquisition may have been on the lookout for telltale signs of the Festival of Lights, but they didn’t turn up much. Hanukah wasn’t a big deal in Spain. Hanukah wasn’t a big deal anywhere, really, until American Jews got overwhelmed by Christmas-driven consumerism and decided to put some muscle behind the menorah – which, when you come to think of it, already represents a lot of muscle, otherwise known as the Maccabees. No shrinking violets, they.
This year we’re having to compete with Thanksgiving! Oddly enough, last year I wrote about Sephardic food and Thanksgiving, after one Alan Moskowitz asked me whether I could re-create his Sephardic grandmother’s mysterious chopped liver “stuffing” recipe, which was really an Ashkenazi/Thanksgiving-inspired mina. Despite the funky name, the result is truly delicious and the story is fun. You should check them both out here, and consider putting a Thanksgiving mina on your holiday table, or your day-after-holiday table – especially if you’re ordinarily inclined to add liver to your stuffing, or giblets to your gravy.
But you really want donuts. No – you want fritters. Bimuelos, it’s bimuelos you want, soft, spongy fritters that puff up with air when you cook them, and are light as a feather. Continue reading
If you’re still secretly wishing you dared cook fish for Rosh Hashana (you’re supposed to…), but don’t know how to even begin, today I’ve got some good news for you: it’s breathtakingly simple.
Americans have a fear of fish. My dad took me fishing one time when I was seven, in the Adirondacks. I caught two small bass, which was no mean feat for a seven-year-old because bass are feisty. It was so exciting! I beamed on the walk back to our summer cabin. Dad cleaned and scaled the fish, and cooked them for me in a pan, and they were heavenly! Did I ever go fishing again? No. Did I develop a passion for seafood? No. What’s up with Americans? Fish is so delicious, and so not a big part of our beef-and-chicken crazy culture. Granted, we’ve got great beef, and some fine chickens. Continue reading