Tag Archives: Ottoman

Breaking the fast: The sound logic of sweet melon seeds

The beverages Jews drink to break the fast of Yom Kippur vary among communities, but the majority of them come down to  sweetened teas or herbal infusions, sometimes with spice added.

Putting spice in your empty stomach first thing after a 25-hour fast might sound counterintuitive, but many spices have soothing digestive properties. Yom Kippur drinks may contain cinnamon, or cardamom, or herbs like mint and lemon verbena. Other spices valued for their digestive and calming properties include anise, fennel seed, and ginger, and it’s a safe bet someone will be ingesting them somewhere at the close of the holiday.

As a people whose diet is shy of strong spices, Ottoman Sephardim re-awaken the stomach with the mildest of beverages: pipitada, an infusion of crushed melon seeds, steeped several hours in cold water, strained, and sweetened with a little sugar. The drink is in keeping with our custom of beginning meals each day with a melon course, an ancient practice with a sound, healthful logic. Continue reading


Filed under Customs, Holidays (fiestas judias)

Three names for but a single recipe…

What do your heirloom recipes tell you about your family history? Take a look at these two comments I received in response to my post about spinach cuajado:

“This is so very similar to Peeta de Espinaca, made by my Nauna and my mother (and now me) especially at Passover, but whenever the spirit moves.”  – Jackie

“My mother used to fry the mixture and then bake it. She called it sfungato de spinaca. That’s exactly what I’m making for dinner!” – Diane

These two women, like me, are Ottoman Sephardim, and one thing’s clear: we all equate what I call spinach cuajado with Passover and Shabbat (Diane left her comment on a Friday and in that context), but not exclusively; unlike recipes that are set aside strictly for specific holidays, cuajado is so fundamental, we make it “whenever the spirit moves.” So, that’s the Sephardic experience with cuajado. Or peeta (pita). Or was it sfungato? Continue reading


Filed under History

Thanksgiving Mash-up: of Mina and Moskowitzes

When Alan Moskowitz first described to me his Sephardic grandmother’s “stuffing,” he had no idea it was a rare and important example of Sephardic-Ashkenazi fusion cuisine with an American accent! If you’re still not set on your Thanksgiving menu, the story and recipe are in today’s Daily Forward

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Filed under History, Holidays (fiestas judias), Recipes

Q&A: Bread vs. Rice

Dear Janet:

In my father-in-law’s family they always served rice instead of Challah for Shabbat. Is that an Izmir tradition? Victor thinks it is Sephardic; however, I’ve been to other Sephardic homes that I believed had Challah. I’ve tried to look up the history but have hit an end. I’d love it if you could assist. Thank you in advance. – Lael Hazan

Victor is partially right, Lael. Challah per se – the braided loaf – is not a Sephardic tradition, and as one of the most elemental staples of the Sephardic diet, rice is served on Shabbat as on most other days. If a Sephardic cook were to choose one over the other to serve the family, the choice would be a rice pilaf of some sort; the bread is the extra. We don’t think of rice as a bread substitute, nor vice versa.

That said, festive breads have a distinct place on the Sephardic table, Continue reading


Filed under History, Your Questions Answered