Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh, More Than 100 Unforgettable Dishes Updated for Today's Kitchen

Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh, More Than 100 Unforgettable Dishes Updated for Today's Kitchen

by Janna Gur


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The author of the acclaimed The Book of New Israeli Food returns with a cookbook devoted to the culinary masterpieces of Jewish grandmothers from Minsk to Marrakesh: recipes that have traveled across continents and cultural borders and are now brought to life for a new generation.
For more than two thousand years, Jews all over the world developed cuisines that were suited to their needs (kashruth, holidays, Shabbat) but that also reflected the influences of their neighbors and that carried memories from their past wanderings. These cuisines may now be on the verge of extinction, however, because almost none of the Jewish communities in which they developed and thrived still exist. But they continue to be viable in Israel, where there are still cooks from the immigrant generations who know and love these dishes. Israel has become a living laboratory for this beloved and endangered Jewish food.
The more than one hundred original, wide-ranging recipes in Jewish Soul Food—from Kubaneh, a surprising Yemenite version of a brioche, to Ushpa-lau, a hearty Bukharan pilaf—were chosen not by an editor or a chef but, rather, by what Janna Gur calls “natural selection.” These are the dishes that, though rooted in their original Diaspora provenance, have been embraced by Israelis and have become part of the country’s culinary landscape. The premise of Jewish Soul Food is that the only way to preserve traditional cuisine for future generations is to cook it, and Janna Gur gives us recipes that continue to charm with their practicality, relevance, and deliciousness. Here are the best of the best: recipes from a fascinatingly diverse food culture that will give you a chance to enrich your own cooking repertoire and to preserve a valuable element of the Jewish heritage and of its collective soul.

(With full-color photographs throughout.)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805243086
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/28/2014
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 786,786
Product dimensions: 8.60(w) x 11.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

JANNA GUR was born and raised in the former Soviet Union and immigrated to Israel in 1974. She is the founder and chief editor of the leading Israeli food and wine magazine. She lives in Tel Aviv.

Read an Excerpt

From the Introduction...

Wherever Jews settled in the Diaspora, they created cuisines. They had to. Naturally, they were influenced by the ingredients and cooking styles of the countries in which they lived, but their kitchens were also different from the kitchens of their neighbors. Kosher dietary laws precluded their using certain foods and combinations; even more important, these laws, which progressively became more strict and all-encompassing, imposed on them a degree of culinary isolation: Jews not only cooked and ate differently, they were not allowed to sample the nonkosher food of the Gentiles. A few years ago, I watched a television interview with a Yemenite Jew who had recently arrived in Israel. When he was asked whether his food tasted different from that of his Muslim neighbors, he looked puzzled: “How would I know? I have never tried it.”
The concept of kashruth made Jewish food different. It also made it extremely significant: To a large extent Jews are defined (in their own eyes and in the eyes of the others) by what they eat and don’t eat. The centrality of cooking in Jewish culture is especially evident on Shabbat and holidays. Shabbat poses an almost impossible challenge: The day on which even the poorest must eat a proper meal is also the day on which no fire can be lit and no manual work can be done. And the result: Across the globe, unique dishes were devised for Friday-night dinners and Shabbat lunches. Holiday cooking is where Jewish cuisines are at their most exuberant. At the core of almost every holiday, there is a festive, elaborate meal—from the strictly regulated ceremonial menu served at a Passover Seder to the symbolic foods consumed at Rosh Hashanah.
Last but not least, Jewish cuisines are unique because they reflect the histories of their respective communities. Many Eastern European Ashkenazi dishes preserve archaic influences from Alsace and even Italy; the cooking of Turkish and Bulgarian Jews bears similarities to that of their ancestors during the Golden Age in Spain; the cuisines of Iraqi Jews and Indian Jews have a lot in common because of close ties between these communities.
This world of culinary wisdom faced dramatic changes in the twentieth century as the vast majority of those scattered in the Jewish Diaspora ceased (or nearly ceased) to exist in their original provenances. Millions of Jews from all over the world immigrated to Israel, a tiny country with an ambition to reinvent itself as a nation. The culinary baggage Jewish repatriates brought with them was at first a burden rather than a legacy. In the early days of the Zionist movement, there was an overwhelming impulse to reject the Diaspora—its customs, its language, its foods.
Later on, as waves of immigrants flooded the country in the wake of World War II, the ideological rejection was replaced by something more poignant: children ashamed of the immigrant ways of their parents—their language, their customs, their food. Be it an Ashkenazi boy embarrassed in front of his classmates because of his chopped liver sandwich or a Moroccan girl who wouldn’t let her mother serve North African sweets at her birthday party. The parents, on the other hand, clung tenaciously to their culinary legacy as a way to preserve their identities—to connect with their families, to remember their homes.
Toward the end of the millennium, as the ethos of the melting pot gave way to more inclusive approaches to everything cultural, the foods of Jewish communities became again a source of pride and inspiration, even for a younger generation, certainly for Israeli chefs. Some cuisines did better than others: Balkan and North African food traditions that suit the local climate and ingredients so well are among the most beloved in modern-day Israel. Ashkenazi food, which in the eyes of the world is synonymous with “Jewish cooking,” is less popular, but recent years have brought a new interest in it, sparked by the trendiness of Jewish Ashkenazi cooking in North America, especially in New York.
Today, more and more Israelis are aware of the importance of preserving their family cooking heritages. Self-published family cookbooks have become very common, and it is touching to see how much love and longing are invested in these modest publications. Still the big question looms: Can these cuisines, which are products of the unique circumstances of Jewish life in places like Iraq, Turkey, Yemen, Morocco, or Poland, really survive in their new home? Or to put it in simpler words: Who will cook this food in the next generation and who will eat it? Much of it is a labor-intensive, time-consuming, old-fashioned kind of cooking. Indeed, in most families it is the grandmother who still cooks the food from the old country. Her children, long since busy parents themselves, love it, but don’t have time to cook it. As for the grandchildren, they probably have tasted it only at a few family occasions, and by the time they are old enough to care and get interested, the grandmother is gone, and when they ask the mother how to make something, she often doesn’t know. “I should have asked her for the recipe but never got around to it and now it is too late.” You have no idea how often I have heard this!
Gastronomy may seem to lend itself easily to preservation, especially in our digital age. But transcribing a recipe or even videoing it is not nearly enough. The only way to really preserve a culinary culture—to keep it alive—is to cook the food and make people want to eat it. It would be naive to assume that all the wealth of Jewish cooking can be kept alive in this way. Most of it eventually will be relegated to the folkloristic fringes of the culinary scene. But in the world of Jewish food, there are so many dishes that are delicious, exciting, and doable that they can survive relocation and gain a new lease on life in the modern kitchen.
It is with these thoughts that I approached the project that eventually became this book. The Jewish bookshelf is brimming with excellent works. Some of them are encyclopedic in their scope; others, dedicated to the cooking of a specific community, offer a captivating blend of recipes, folklore, and history. But this depth and scope can sometimes be overwhelming, especially to someone new in the field. I felt that what was missing was something more focused, edited, and therefore approachable; I decided to confine myself to about one hundred dishes from as many Jewish communities as possible—a kind of greatest hits from our Jewish grandmothers.
In selecting the dishes, I tried to crack the code of a winning dish—what is it that makes us adopt and adapt a certain recipe and abandon another? Surely, there’s the relative ease of preparation, and the availability of ingredients, but there’s something else—the “soul” of a dish, that elusive quality that makes us relish it and want to make it ours. To discover that soul was my goal, but I cannot really claim that it was just I who curated this selection.
Israel today is a living laboratory of Jewish food, as our cooks, both professional and amateur, are exposed to a multitude of cuisines and dishes. Through a process of natural selection, some of them have been discovered and adopted by the whole society because of their deliciousness and practicality. In this respect, the real editors of this collection are anonymous Israelis who prepare these dishes in their kitchens or order them in restaurants, and in this way are keeping them alive.
I was also very lucky: During the twenty-odd years of editing an Israeli food magazine, I learned from many great cooks around me and was able to compare different versions of the same dish. Many recipes in this book are indeed credited to specific cooks—professional and amateur—while others are the sum total of tips and techniques I picked up along the way.
Most recipes are authentic (often with little tweaks that make life easier), but here and there I was tempted to offer a creative take on a traditional dish: like Erez Komarovsky’s Gondalach—a charming fusion of Ashenazi kneidlach and Persian gondi dumplings; or Omer Miller’s Exiles Cholent, which cleverly blends ingredients and techniques from several Shabbat casseroles with delicious results.
It was important for me to show that these dishes feel perfectly at home in a modern kitchen (they certainly do in mine): The salads and snacks featured in the first chapter are great for parties and cookouts; Meatless Mains offers healthful and nutritious options for both weekday and special-occasion meals. The Shabbat chapter might lead you to rethink your weekend menu and invite friends for “Sabich breakfast” or serve them a visually stunning and easy-to-make Hamin Macaroni.
As these recipes come from so many different cuisines, some of the ingredients might be a little hard to come by. Wherever possible, more readily available substitutes are suggested, but I do urge you to try to get the real stuff at least once—the difference can be dramatic.
To use a culinary metaphor, I would like to regard this selection as an appetizer—a sampler that will encourage you to explore more dishes from various Jewish cuisines. If you enjoy Lakhoukh panfried bread, you might be tempted to look further afield and discover other distinctive breads from the Yemenite kitchen; while T’bit—an ingenious Iraqi Shabbat casserole—could be a wonderful introduction to one of the most ancient and unique Jewish cuisines. I can also envision a different scenario—your encountering a dish that you remember from your childhood and deciding, for the first time in your life, to make it in your own kitchen.
Either way, every dish you cook from this book (or other Jewish cookbooks for that matter) is meaningful in a way that goes beyond its taste and your personal enjoyment. By cooking it and serving it to those you love, you help to keep it alive and pass it on to the next generation.

Table of Contents

Introduction  xi
Spicy Carrot Salad 2
Pickled Lemons 2
Beet Salad with Cumin and Cinnamon 4
Orange and Black Olives Salad 7
Harissa 7
Blue Ones with Red Ones | Eggplant Salad with Tomatoes and Onions 8
Matboukha | Pepper and Tomato Slow-Cooked Salsa 9
Mashawia | Fresh Tomatoes and Roasted Peppers Salsa 11
Gehakte Leber | Chopped Liver with Lots and Lots of Fried Onions 12
Schmaltz and Gribenes 14
Erez’s Chopped Liver 15
Zibale mit Eyer | Egg and Onion Salad 17
Badrijani Nigvzit | Eggplant Rolls with Walnut and Herb Filling 20
Kuku Sabzi | Herb Frittata 21
Ijeh b’Lahmeh | Herb and Meat Latkes 22
Gefilte Fish 24
Crispy Fish Cakes with Pine Nuts and Fresh Herbs 27
Homemade Pickled Herring 28
Seliodka pod Shuboy | Layered Beet and Herring Salad 30
Forschmak | Herring-Apple Pâté 31
Messayir | Pickled Salad 32
Chershi | Lemony Pumpkin Spread 33
Apio | Celeriac and Carrots in Lemon Sauce 34
Krupnik | Mushroom and Barley Soup 39
Israeli Chicken Soup 40
Kneidlach | Matzo Balls 41
Passover Green Chicken Soup 43
Gondi Nohodi | Chickpea and Chicken Dumplings in Turmeric-Lime Broth 44
Gondalach 46
Lentil Stew with Cumin, Garlic, and Coriander 47
Borscht | Beet, Cabbage, and Beef Soup 48
Batata Hamood | Tart Potato and Celery Broth with Meatballs 50
H’rira | Spiced Vegetables and Legume Soup 51
Ras el Hanout Spice Mix 51
Meat Kubbe with a Cheat 52
Beet Soup with Kubbe 55
Pumpkin Soup with Kubbe 57
Albondigas | Beef and Grilled Eggplant Meatballs 60
Kebab Gerez | Meatballs with Sour Cherries 63 Fesenjan | Meatballs in Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce 65
Herbed Fish Balls with Jerusalem Artichokes, Tomatoes, and Saffron 67
Peppers Stuffed with Rice and Meat 69
Meatballs with Tomatoes, Chickpeas, Swiss Chard, and Eggplants 70
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Sauerkraut 71
Mixed Stuffed Vegetables in Pomegranate Sauce 72
Mafroum | Meat and Potato “Sandwiches” 75
Bistil | Potato Patties Stuffed with Spiced Minced Meat 76
Beef and Potato Sofrito 81
Barbecued Brisket 82
Goulash | Beef Stewed in Paprika Sauce 83
Plau B’jeej | Chicken with Almonds and Raisins over Red Rice 85
Ushpalau | Beef and Rice Pilaf with Chickpeas, Carrots, and Spices 87
Chicken Tagine with Artichoke Hearts 89
Tanziye | Beef Tagine with Dried Fruits and Nuts 90
Salona | Sweet-and-Sour Fish Casserole with Eggplant and Tomatoes 92
Ingriyi | Sweet-and-Sour Beef and Eggplant Casserole 94
Beef Tongue in a Sweet-and-Sour Sauce 95
North African Fish Stew, Two Ways Moroccan Spicy Fish Ragù 97
Chreime | Tunisian Spicy Fish Ragù 98
Ghormeh Sabzi | Beef and Herb Stew 99
Shakshuka | Eggs Poached in Spicy Tomato Sauce 103
Filfel Chuma 104
Türlü | Mixed Vegetables Casserole 105
Spinach Flan 106
Feta-Stuffed Pepper “Cutlets” 108
Sabzi Polo | Rice Pilaf with Lots and Lots of Fresh Herbs 110
Couscous with Vegetables (or Tuesday Couscous) 114
Tahdig | Rice Pilaf with Dried Apricots and Crispy Potato Crust 117
Mujaddara | Rice with Lentils 119
“Before Shabbat” Pasta Casserole 120
Green Masala Beans 121
Green Masala 121
Ka’ak | Savory Sesame Cookies 124
Adjaruli Khachapuri | Cheese and Egg-Filled Pies 126
Sambousek | Chickpea-Filled Pastry Pockets 129
Káposztás Pogácsa | Caramelized Cabbage Buns 131
Lakhoukh | Panfried Flat Bread 133
Frojalda | Cheese Bread 134
Bouikos con Kashkaval | Mini Cheese Buns 135
Sfikha | Open-Face Meat Bourekas 137
Chukor | Phyllo Spinach and Cheese Pastries 139
Banitza | Phyllo and Cheese Pie 140
Puff Pastry Cheese Bourekas 143
Exiles Cholent 146
T’bit | Stuffed Chicken and Rice Hamin with Honey and Spices 149
T’bit 2 150
Homemade Baharat 150
Vegan Pearl Barley and Silan Hamin 151
Hamin Macaroni | Chicken Noodle Hamin 153
Jerusalem Sweet and Spicy Noodle Kugel 154
Sabich | Egg and Eggplant Shabbat Breakfast Sandwich 158
Kubaneh | Yemenite Slow-Baked Shabbat Bread 161
Zhug 162
Fluden with Walnuts, Poppy Seeds, and Apples 167
Vera’s Apfel Kuchen | Apple Cake 169
Honig Lekach | Honey-Flavored Sponge Cake 170
Sweet Cheese Pie 173
Bonnie’s Jam and Pecan Rugelach 174
Chocolate-Cinnamon Babka 179
Chocolate Rugelach 180
Baba bi Tamr | Date-Filled Biscuits 181
Ma’amoul | Walnut-Stuffed Cookies 182
Marochinos | Flourless Double Almond Cookies 185
Szilvás Gombóc | Plum Dumplings 186
Apple and Raisin Strudel 188
Ghraybeh | Orange Blossom Butter Cookies 191
Sutlach (Arroz con Leche) | Sweet Rice Pudding 192
Basbousa | Juicy Semolina, Coconut, and Pistachio Cake 195
Dried Fruit, Pears, and Wine Compote 196
Ashureh | Wheat Berries with Honey, Nuts, and Dried Fruits 197
Mofleta | Sweet Pancake Stacks 199
Nut and Date Coins 201
Bimuelos | Honeyed Hanukkah Puffs 202
Mail Order Sources for Specialty Ingredients 203
Acknowledgments 205
Index 207

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Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh, More Than 100 Unforgettable Dishes Updated for Today's Kitchen 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Easy to follow recipes with beautiful photos ---- Perfect gift for the special cook or foodie....