The short list

My zucchini cuajado. Not in any book. (Yet).

 

An achingly long time ago I promised to recommend Sephardic cookbooks that I especially like. My recommendations have been slow in coming (I’m picky), and I know that slogging through old blog posts to find them is a chore, so I’ve finally gotten them together in a single tabbed book page.  Yay!

These are fine books, representing different Western Sephardic tastes and traditions. Most of them aren’t very well known, but I think they should be. The list includes reviews (mine) and links, the selection is very personal – and very short, though I expect it will grow.  I hope you enjoy this new feature!

 

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Shana Tovah!

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On Rosh Hashanah, which begins tomorrow at sundown, Jewish people will begin our annual period of spiritual renewal. It’s a beautiful holiday, as is this whole season. In my childhood Rosh Hashanah was, after Passover, my other favorite Jewish holiday, but I’ve lived long enough, and through enough, that it has become my number one. In spite of my not having a local community to celebrate with, I always find a way to observe it.

Last week I gave you a story about apples. Today, a few brief words about plums, another traditional fruit at this time of year. Continue reading

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An Affair To Remember

Whenever she felt like expanding her cooking repertoire my mother, who was raised on Ottoman Sephardic food, naturally gravitated toward recipes that reflected her cultural sensibility. In cookbooks and the magazine pages of mid-century America, she found much inspiration in things French.

America’s love affair with French cuisine took off like a rocket in the early 1960’s under the influence of Julia Child, but the relationship was already well established. As recent immigrants to New York in the early 20th century, my grandfather and his brothers, all fluent in French, became salesmen for Nabisco,

My papu & his brothers wore straw boaters like these on their sales calls for Nabisco. (This isn't them; they weren't smokers!)

My dapper papu & his brothers wore straw boaters like these on their sales calls for Nabisco. This isn’t them, but the guy on the lower right looks a lot like like my papu!

which in those days catered to the city’s finer hotels and restaurants where the language, like the fancy food, was French. (Fun fact: Nabisco’s New York operation was housed in the complex that is now the Chelsea Market on Ninth Avenue & 15th Street). My grandparents, of course, had received a French education in Turkey, where they’d attended the schools of the Alliance Israélite Universelle. French culture was already a comfortable fit for them when they arrived here from Rhodes.

To the delight of her family and friends, my mother knew how to pick winners and she turned them out beautifully. Continue reading

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A Sephardic American Cookbook To Sink Your Teeth Into

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

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