Until my son Aryeh showed me how I didn’t believe that Sahlab was something I could made at home. Let me correct that. I know that there are sahlab mixes on the market. I’ve used them to make the classic Middle Eastern sweet milk pudding, but how could I make sahlab without a mix?
“It’s easy and it costs a fraction of the price of that garbage mix, ” Aryeh said. He showed me and he was right.
Hanukah is the perfect time for sahlab. It’s a sweet dairy treat . Dairy products are eaten on Hanukah to recall the Yehudit the daughter of a High Priest whose bravery was instrumental in the Maccabean victory. Of all of their decrees the the harshest and most hated was the requirement for Jewish brides to cohabit with Greek soldiers before they could wed. Judaism considers human sexuality a vehicle for transcendence and this decree of forced rape was an abomination. To get around it, Jews took to marrying in secrecy but Yehudit was too well known to slip under the radar. Instead she devised a plan. Carrying a basket of wines and her own home made salty cheeses she visited the general Holofernes at the Greek army camp. He invited her to his tent where she fed him the cheeses and then slaked his thirst with plenty of wine. When he finally passed out dead drunk, Yehudit ,took out a knife and cut off his head. When the Greeks saw the head roll through their camp they ran away and this helped lead the Maccabees to victory.
Back to Sahlab here’s Aryeh’s recipe for one cup.
Pour one cup of milk into a small pan. Add three teaspoons of sugar and one and one half tablespoons of cornstarch (in the UK it’s called cornflour) . Stir every so often until the mixture thickens. Don’t let it boil over. When it’s thick garnish with a pinch of cinnamon, ground nuts and if you like dried coconut flakes. Our you can garnish with a tablespoon of granola. Eat right away. Delicious.
My mother’s menu planning method was to go to the produce market, look around and come home inspired. I see that I’m the same way. The other day I was at Osher Ad (Endless Bliss, in English–that name just kills me every time) and I saw something I’d never seen before –fresh oregano leaves!From Gush Katif, that wonderful company that brings us aphid and bug free produce. Bugs aren’t kosher–for this reason orthodox Jews have pioneered bug free hydroponically grown vegetables and kitchen herbs. Parsley, dill, cilantro and green onions are standards–you can find them not only in speciality markets but also in local groceries, but fresh oregano was something new and exciting. I tossed it into my cart without any idea of what to do with it. Add it to spaghetti sauce? Nah, dried oregano would do just as well. Put it over fish? No. The oregano seemed like a miscast actress taking the place of parsley which was fish’s natural herb. So then what?
Thank G-d for Mark Bittman. If you feel like this blog is turning into a paean to that great man of contemporary cooking, you’re right. That enormous red book, “How to Cook Everything” has become my go to cookbook. Leave it to Bittman to come up with a solution. Oregano infused salad oil! Cook up those oregano leaves in olive oil and voila–a, subtly herbal infusion, perfect for the vinagrette which coats our families Shabbat lunch salad.
And it takes about five minutes to make–my favorite kind of recipe. Here’s how.
Pour a cup of best quality olive oil into a small pan. Add a handful of fresh oregano, stems and leaves. (no need to mince) Cook together on low flame for five minutes . That is long enough for the oregano to infuse the oil with it’s wonderful aroma. Cool. Remove the oregano. Pour the infused oil into a clean glass bottle(no need to sterilize) . Refrigerate. The infused oil keeps for up to two months.
You can substitute or add fresh garlic, basil, rosemary, any aromatic you like. This oil is also wonderful when brushed on grilled veggies, chicken or meat. If you have a pretty glass jar, it can also make a lovely gift
Here are some pictures of the process.
Succoth which is coming up soon is a major bread eating holiday.There are fourteen meals over the course of a the seven day holiday. For Jews a meal means bread. And lots of bread gets eaten in the sukkah.Thre’s also lots of entertaining, actual and metaphysical as every sukkah receives a nightly visit from one of the ushpizin the seven shepherds of Israel.
As guests go, Ushpizin are undemanding . They don’t require chairs or a place setting or even food. They just hang out, letting us bask in their spiritual aura. Night #4 of the holiday belongs to Joseph. Since the Torah calls him the “Mashbir” the provider because he created the world’s first welfare, state, the world’s first food bank and fed the entire planet during a famine, the Belzer Hassidim honor him by serving whole wheat bread. The rationale is that as a very wholesome and complete food whole wheat bread is a fitting memorial for the man who was called “the provider.”
This is a hybrid recipe– part yeast, part sourdough but without starter and including the teeniest bit of yeast (1/2 tsp to over four cups of flour) and a long, long rising time-eighteen hours plus but the result is spectacular–a rich hearty loaf with a light open crumb.
This comes from one of my all time favorites Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything,” Yes this isn’t a kosher cookbook but there’s plenty of food that fits the kosher diet.
Mark calls this No Work Bread and he’s not kidding.
He credits the recipe to Jim Lahey of New York’s Sullivan Street bakery. Please let me know if you love this as much as I do!Thgis is what it looks like. Gorgeous eh?
4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (the original recipe calls for all purpose or bread flour but I used Rubenfeld 80 per cent)plus more flour for the second rise
1/2 teaspoon yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups tepid water
2 tablespoons olive oil
Cornmeal or bran ( I used cornmeal)
Mix everything together.
No neeed for a mixer, a wooden spoon will do a fine job. Just use a very large bowl because this will expand
The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover it with a piece of plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place (Bittman recommends that it stay at 70 F temperature ) for eighteen hours–yes this isn’t a typo.
Mix the dough in the early evening and by the following afternoon–or even earlier you
ll be ready to bake
When the surface is dotted with bubbles–they really look more like black dots–then add enough flour to form a non sticky dough–do this slowly, one handful at a time. Again, no need for a machine. This is a soft dough. It feels like working with playdoh. This is actually a great project for kids–parts of it at least
Cover with plastic and let the dough sit for another 15 minutes
Dust the dough with cornmeal. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let it rise for another two hours.
When the dough is ready it will have doubled and when you poke a finger inside it, it won’t spring back.
At least a half hour before the dough is ready preheat oven to 450 F or 220 C and insert a three to four quart covered pot with lid into the oven. The pot will function as a kind of steam oven and it needs to be super hot to accomplish this.
Be sure to use oven mitts and keep children away.
Let the oven and the pot heat up for a half hour. Then open the oven door, open the pot and carefully slide dough inside–no need to grease the pan-it won’t stick.
Bake covered for a half hour. The remove lid and bake uncovered for another half hour.
Remove from oven Wait a half hour–Maimonides says that it’s bad for the stomach to eat bread fresh from the oven and somehow Bittman has absorbed thsi teaching.
Then eat . Freezes well. Creates a very large open, crumbed loaf. Delicious.
Though we reflexively translate the Hebrew word “tapuach” as an apple, it isn’t clear that this is accurate. Tapuach which was the fruit of the tree of wisdom and also the paradisically scented fruit described in the Song of Songs may have been a citron, or according to some scholars a quince. “Tapuach” is also the Talmudic term for the mound of ash from a sacrifice. In the Rosh Hashana liturgy this double meaning is exploited as we eat the “tapuach” fruit as we entreat G-d to remember the would be sacrifice of Isaac.
Quinces which have a pleasingly medieval sound to them as well as a lovely pineapple like scent are botanical cousins to both apples and pear. Heavy and covered with brown fuzz, these fruits which at least in Israel ripen during the early fall are too sour to eat raw. They are also almost impossible to cut. Even my state of the art Global knife was hardly up to the challenge– I might have done better with a hacksaw. But once they are cooked with honey or sugar quinces redeem themselves. Thye made a wonderful compote–sweet, tart and aromatic all at the same time.,
6 quinces, peeled, pared and cored . Cut them into quarters and then cut through each quarter to form medium sized pieces
2/3 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
pinch of cinnamon
Combine everything and bring to a boil . Then simmer for about an hour and a half until the quinces are soft . Refrigerate and serve cold. Serves eight.
I can’t believe that Rosh Hashana is only a week away. One of my favorite parts of this holiday are the symbolic foods–especially these latkes which are so yummy you might be tempted to eat them all year round. Here are recipes for two.
Gourd or snake squash which is called kra in Aramaic has a double yehi ratzon prayer. That is because the word “kra” has two meanings. Kra can translated as as “to tear”. In one yehi ratzon prayer we ask G-d to tear up any evil decrees (kra roa gzar deneinu).
Kra can also be translated as “to read or to proclaim.” In the other yehi ratzon we that our good deeds be read or proclaimed (veyikriu lefanecha zechuyoteinu).
Like karti (leek) and silka (beet green), kra is customarily grated into patties or latkes.
1 medium-sized gourd
1 small onion
¼ cup matzo meal
Salt and pepper to taste
Peel gourd, remove seeds and cut into chunks. Cut onion into chunks. Process all chunks using blade attachment together with other ingredients. Heat a thin film of oil in skillet and fry until golden brown. Approximately 2 minutes for each side. Drain on absorbent paper.
Yields 20 silver dollar sized pancakes. You can freeze, but it’s best fresh.
Leek or Karti
Leek, Aramaic as karti is on the table because of a word play. Karti sounds like karet, to cut off, or its future plural form “sheyikartu”. On the leek, karti we say “sheyikartu soenu,” may our enemies be cut off. Some people may say this is violent or even blood thirsty, but when you consider Jewish history, this bit of edible revenge is well deserved.
1 medium-sized leek.
⅓ cup matzo meal
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
Split leek lengthwise. Separate leaves and run each leaf under cold water to remove dirt and pebbles.
Place leek pieces in food processor along with all other ingredients. Process everything together using blade attachment until you’ve created a lumpy paste—just a few pulses. You want to preserve some texture.
With wet hands, form palm-sized patties and fry until brown on both sides (about two minutes per side). Eat immediately. You can freeze these, but you’ll sacrifice a great deal of the flavor.
Yields 30-35 patties
During the dark ages before kosher sushi, marble cake was a fixture at the Shabbat morning after services kiddush. I haven’t been able discover why. I suspect the reason is that marble cake slices well and can be laid out easily and attractively on trays without too much fussing. It also goes well with the traditional kiddush libation–a tiny shot glass of whiskey.
By the way, marble has nothing to do with the old fashioned kiddie game. It refers to the dark veins shot through the cake yellow sponge which resembles the veins marble stone. Today the veins are flavored with chocolate but in the old days before chocolate was widely eaten the veins were made of a combination of mollasses and spice.
Sadly, homemade marble cake has become a forgotten treat. That is because commercial bakers have coopted the recipe and turned it into a pale replica of its former self. But this recipe, which comes from South Africa where many Lithuanian Jews settled and cooked traditional fare is delightful. It comes from my ex neighbor Shoshana Levy, who is a professional harpist and a wonderful baker
Magical Marvelous Marble Cake
Seven eggs separated
3 cups of flour (use white or whole wheat pastry flour)
2 1/2 cups of sugar (use white)
3/4 cup of oil
1 and 1/2 cups of water
4 level teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tbsp best quality cocoa
Preheat oven to 350 F or 175 C
Beat the egg whites until stiff
Combine flour, baking powder and salt
Beat egg yolks, water and oil together. Add in the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.
Gently incorporate the egg whites
Remove a cup of the batter and combine with a tablespoon of cocoa
Coat a bundt pan or a tube pan with non stick cooking spray. Also spray one thin loaf pan and or a few cup cake holders to accomodate any left over batter. This is a big cake. When I made it the batter produced enough to fill one standard sized bundt pan, one thin loaf pan and three cupcake.
Pour in batter alternating between the yellow and the chocolate batters. Gently insert a knife into the batter to create swirls
Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out dry
Freezes well. Serves 16
If you leave out the chocolate this is a wonderful sponge cake on it’s own.
With bagels sold on every corner and in the supermarket frozen food section why bother to make them at home? Sadly, many of those so called bagels are nothing more than soft rolls with holes in their middles. In Poland and in the Jewish neighborhoods of the early 20th century US, bagels were crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, and they had large holes–so they could be fished out of the boiling water used in their production.
Bagels are an ancient food–the first known reference to them dates to medieval Krakow. In Poland they were a beloved snack, sold in the marketplace and at street corners.
In the US bagels have been upgraded to a special treat. Though many people eat them every day, bagels are often on the menu at post circumcision brunches and post funeral meals. Food historian Gil Marks suspects that this has to do with the bagels round shape which alludes to the cycle of life.
If you are hankering for an old fashioned bagel, you may have to make your own. Fortunately bagel baking isn’t at all complicated though it does take time. My recipe takes over 24 hours from start to finish though most of that is waiting time.
This recipe is adapted from Inside the Jewish Bakery, Recipes and Memories from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking” Stanley Ginsberg and Norman Berg
New York Water Bagels
5 cups of whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp brown sugar or honey
1 and 2/3 cup of warm water
Dissolve the yeast in water. Add sugar or honey. Then add flour and salt. You can knead this with a mixer. Knead until the dough forms a ball. Expect a stiff dough. Ket the dough rest for a half hour
Shape the dough into a dozen bagels
Set on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Cover the outside of the tray with cling film and leave to rest overnight in the fridge
The next day boil up pot of boiling water. Add two tablespoons of brown sugar to the water
Preheat your oven to 460 F or 240 C
Insert the bagels into the boiling water. When they float remove them to drain.
While they are draining add toppings–sesame seeds, poppy seeds, rock salt or anything else or nothing at all
Bake for 18 minutes
Let cool for thirty minutes then enjoy or freeze
Kiddush is the blessing over the wine. Kiddush is also the name of a post Sabbath morning services reception which begins with the recitation of the kiddush blessing. Kiddushes which are actually open house parties are a feature of synagogue life. At many synagogues there is a kiddush every week. Sometimes a congregant will sponsor the kiddush, ie: pick up the tab to celebrate a birth, a bar mitzvah, wedding or even a loved ones death. Yes, it’s a time old Jewish tradition to celebrate the yahrzeit, the death anniversary which is the birthday of the soul in the world to come. In some places kiddushes have turned into fancy smorgasbord receptions featuring things like fruit platters, sushi and spare ribs but once upon a time kiddushes were modest affairs . In Ashkenazi congregations the menu was standard– shot cups of wine and schanpps, sponge cake and marble cake , shmaltz herring and eire kichel.
Eire kichel pronounced eye-er-kichel (with the ‘ch” combining to make the gutteral “chet” sound is the Yiddish name for an almost extinct typically Jewish variation on the egg cookie. Eire means egg in Yiddish and kichel means cookie, but an Eire Kichel isn’t just any cookie. Its’ a light, sweet and crispy dough puff made up of equal parts of crunch and air. It’s sweet but not overpoweringly so and it’s the perfect complement to a cup of steaming hot tea. Food historian Gil Marks says the eire kichel was brought to the New World in storage tins by immigrants fearful that they would have trouble finding kosher provisions on their journeys.
For most of the 20th century eire kichel was a Jewish bakery staple–there are still a few bakeries that produce it today. Even today it is still baked by the large Jewish food manufacturers at Passover. But for a real taste of eire kichel, make it yourself at home.
This variation on eire kichel is called bow ties because the cookie has a twisted shape that resembles a bow tie.
This recipe is adapted from the Ratner’s Meatless Cookbook
4 whole eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 cups of flour
Additional sugar for dredging
One teaspoon cinnamon (optional) You can mix the dredging sugar with cinnamon for additional flavor.
Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer combine everything except the additional sugar. Beat together until the dough forms a ball.
Wrap the dough with cling film and let it rest for a half hour (no need to refrigerate)
Preheat oven to 350 F or 175 C
Sprinkle flour and sugar onto your work surface and roll the dough out as thin as you can. Cut into 3/4 inch strips . Cut strips into 3 inch lengths and twist at the center like a bow tie
Place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned
Cool on racks
Yields three dozen
Way, way back in history, before brisket of beef and roast chicken were even invented there was the meat pie. In his authoratitive history of Jewish “Eat and Be Satisfied,” John Cooper says that this in Central and Eastern Europe a meat pie called a pastide was the Friday night entre of choice. The pastide was a kind of pot pie, a crust on the bottom, a crust on the top and a meat filling. This structure was a memorial to the Manna, the miraculous food that sustained the Jews through their forty years of desert wanderings. According to it’s biblical description the manna was sandwiched in between to layers of dew. In the pastide the dough stands in for the dew and the meat for the manna. Then and now, meat which is called basar in Hebrew was a preferred Shabbat food, it’s letters adding up to the number seven which symbolizes the Sabbath.
Compared to a steak or a roast, this recipe involves a relatively small quantity of meat.Though Medieval Europe was heavily carniverous, anti Semitic Eccestiastical decrees which banned non Jews from purchasing Jewish meat impacted on the availabitity of kosher meat. To be certified as kosher, an animal must be free of blemishes, even relatively minor ones. As such the kosher meat market depends on a secondary market of non Jews who are willing to purchase meat that is fit to eat but for one reason or another doesn’t cut it as kosher. In Islamic countries this market was vigorous but in Christian countries, Ecclesiastical decrees often elminated this market and consequently drove up the price of kosher meat. By the 16th century, there was almost no kosher meat in Europe at all and Jews started raising chicken and other fowl.
By the Jews stopped eating meat pies and moved on to chicken and goose.
As I’ve been unable to track down the original recipe what follows is an adaptation based on “From My Grandmother’s Kitchen, ” A Sephardic cookbook combined by Vivian Alchech Miner.
Alchech Miner’s anscestors came from the Balkan countries and her cuisine reflects a blend of Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian and Roumanian influences.
Meat Pastel (Savory Meat Pie) While Miner’s pie is delicious–it’s a really yum recipe. this isn’t quite authentic.Though the Romans made a flour egg and oil dough it wasn’t for eating but rather as a case for meat or other fillings. Remember that premodern sanitation was severely lacking and encasing the food in dough was a way of keeping in clean. In the middle ages meat pies were made of a whole wheat or rye pastry–sometimes combined with shortening which for the Jews probably meant shmaltz or rendered chicken fat. Instead of chopped meat they were filled with other sorts of meat including (yes, strange but true) udder.
3 cups of flour
3/4 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup hot water
1/2 tsp salt
Mix together by hand or machine into a ball of soft dough.
Cover with a tea towel and set aside for 20 minutes. During that time make the filling
One lb or 500 grams of ground beef
One large onion diced
1/2 teaspoon of cilantro or parsley chopped fine (optional)
1 clove of fresh garlic diced fine
2 tablespoons of sweet red wine or water
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 and 1/2 tablespoons of flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
Saute onions and garlic together until translucent
Add the meat, breaking it up into small crumbs. Cook until brown. Add salt, pepper and cilantro or parsley the meat.
In a separate bowl combine the egg, the flour and the wine. Combine together and add to the meat
Cover a medium sized pan (round or rectangular) with cooking spray
Divide the dough into half.
Press into the pan using your fingers.
Add meat on top
Working on a floured surface roll out the remaining half of the dough and lay it on top of the meat. (this is tricky to do perfectly. You may want to enlist a help to help you pick up the dough and lay it smoothly over the meat)
Brush with egg yolk and sprinkle sesame seeds. With the tines of a fork make air holes and bake at 350 F or 180 C until brown (about 50 minutes) Delicious and freezes well.
Of all the cholents, the slow cooking Sabbath stews, Adafina is my favorite. Adafina which is also called t’fina, dafina or simply Hamin which is a generic term for hot Shabbos food is the North African Sabbath stew . Unlike the Ashkenazi cholent, in this variation, the elements of the cholent are cooked separately in cheesecloth bags or in oven safe roasting bags The result is a marvel. Out of a single pot emerges a a complex and multi part feast, like a warm mezze in one pot.
Food historian Gil Marks relates the stew’s name Adafina to the Hebrew “dafina” which means to force into a groove. Marks says that in medieval times the Adafina pot was literally inserted into a groove as the pot was buried in an ember covered hole in the ground . No one does this anymore. Today, Adafina is made in a slow cooker, an oven or on a covered gas stove,known in Yiddish as a blech.
This recipe comes from Rifka Cohen, the sister of my assistant Batya Lieberman. It serves a huge crowd and the subtle mixture of spices results in a dish that is both aromatic and exceptionally delicious.
One to two large onions diced
Three to four pounds of beef and beef bones
1/2 cup chickpeas
1/2 cup of white beans or mixed red and white beans
2 medium sized potatoes
2 medium sized sweet potatoes
One cup rice
One cup whole wheat and/or one cup of barley (I like whole wheat better)
Salt, pepper, turmeric, nutmeg, cinnamon, paprika and cayenne pepper.
3 whole eggs raw in their shells.
Cooking oil or olive oil for frying
Three oven proof roasting bags or cheesecloth bags
Water to cover
Fry the onion until it is golden. Cut the beef into chunks and fry together with the onions.
After the beef is browned, add chickpeas and beans, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Add the spice to taste. Here are some approximate ratios. One teaspoon of salt and turmeric. 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. Pinch of nutmeg, pinch of pepper and cayenne pepper. Taste to adjust seasonings.
In a separate bowl mix together the (uncooked) rice, shredded sweet potato and diced onion. one cup of rice, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of cumin, pinch of nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, one teaspoon of salt. pinch of pepper. Add two teaspoons of oil and two cups of water. Insert everything into a tightly tied ovenproof baking bag, Pinch a few small holes into the bag and put it into the pot.
Do the same for the wheat and barley.
Put everything into a huge pot or crockpot and cover with water . Add several whole eggs in their shells. These will be the slow cooked huevos haminadoes, the cholent eggs.
Cook everything together on low heat for 12 hours.
Open the roasting bags into separate bowls and serve each separately.