Tag Archives: spinach

Q & A: Medieval Catalan Jewish Food (more familiar than you might imagine)

I just discovered, through DNA testing, that my ancestors lived in Girona. They left when the Alhambra Decree was issued. Do you have any recipes of Jewish specialties from Girona?  Thank you.  Ronit

Sure, Ronit! It may well be you know one or two already, as Catalonia’s medieval Jewish recipes were its first culinary exports.

If you’re familiar with spinach with pine nuts and raisins, you probably think of it as an Italian or Italian Jewish dish.  You’d be right. But there, too, in its endless regional variations (adding lemon and garlic in Rome, chive and anchovy in Genoa, sweet onion and vinegar in Venice, etc.), the basic recipe is attributed to the arrival of Sephardim at the time of the expulsion from Spain.

This classic dish is still eaten all over Catalonia, and you’ll be just as likely to find it made with chard as with spinach. Dressed simply with salt, pepper, raisins, pine nuts and olive oil, today’s typical traditional Catalan recipe is far tamer than European food was in the spice-crazy Middle Ages.  In that era spices were wildly expensive and people who could afford them made a big show of using them. Recipes were Continue reading

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Spinach Cuajado / Cuajado de Espinaca

We’re deep into summer now, and one of the nicest things to eat on a lazy summer day is cuajado and a fresh salad. There’s no need for a big spread every time you make a cuajado, as it’s quite filling on its own.

When my grandma and great aunt Reina were alive, we ate a lot of spinach cuajado (as opposed to my favorite, zucchini). When I was very young, the aroma of spinach & all those cheeses cheese baking in the oven was too intense for my sensitive little nose (which is no longer quite so sensitive nor, alas, quite so little).  But once out of the oven, the flavors mellowed and I couldn’t get enough.  Because spinach itself has a more intense flavor than zucchini,  this cuajado needs a stronger cheese, too: pecorino romano instead of parmiggiano, which works perfectly with zucchini but would be too delicate here.

So here’s my recipe for the spinach, also adapted from my Aunt Reina’s.  The sesame seeds aren’t traditional, though I wonder why. They are well within the bounds of tradition and a nice finishing touch with the spinach.

recipe

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Boyos / Bollos (glossary)

Okay, this is it.  I’ve revised the glossary entry based on my new and improved understanding of boyos.  This replaces my post of January 7, which you won’t find any more.

BOYO (BOY-ōō) is the Ladino word for bun – spelled bollo in modern Spanish.  In Sephardic cookery it is a generic term applied to a broad range of savory & sweet baked goods, be they doughy, crunchy, chewy, flaky and so forth.  Some examples include boyos de vino (biscocho cookies made with wine); boyos de rayo (flaky cheese biscuits) and just plain boyos, which are savory pastries filled with spinach, or cheese, or spinach & cheese (yes, there are more kinds of boyos). 

Boyiko is the diminutive of boyo.  The literal translation is ‘small boyo’, but it can just as easily imply ‘without filling.’  Either way it signifies an abbreviated form of boyo.

It’s the use of the word ‘bun’ that has intrigued me, since cookies (boyos de vino) and biscuits (boyos de rayo) are not buns, obviously.  To understand why these, too, would fall under the bun category, I looked to the word itself and to technique for an explanation.  And therein lay the answer.

All of these wildly different boyos share a specific technique when made according to tradition.  After a pastry is first either folded and filled or rolled into a small ball, it is then mashed down lightly with the heel of the hand prior to baking, forming a small cavity or dent.  It is the dent itself that turns out to be the origin of the pastry name, as the word ‘bollo’ has a second meaning:  dent.  In Spain today (if not elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world), this usage is more colloquial, having been replaced by the more lofty-sounding ‘abollatura’.

The dent serves a purpose.  In the case of non-filled boyos or boyikos, it is a quick and effective means of making a reasonably flat cookie without a rolling pin, and in the case of filled boyos, pressing the dough seals the pastry shut.  It’s that simple.  You want to make boyos of any kind?  Flatten them with your hand before you bake them.  I’m retiring my rolling pin.

My thanks to Michael, Zoe and my Aunt Rady, whose recollections of hand-pressing the dough of three radically different pastries helped me get to the bottom of boyos! There’s much, much more to say on the subject, but I’ll leave that for another day.

You have no idea how much I love this work.

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