Culinary History Observations on foods and traditions.
Sfratti are known as both a Rosh Hashana treat and a Christmas dessert. According to legend, the stick-shaped cookies, filled with walnuts and honey, were fashioned after the sticks used to evict Italian Jews from their homes. A recipe can be found at http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Rosh_Hashanah/At_Home/sfratti.shtml
as well as in Gil Marks' The World of Jewish Desserts.
Impade, Almond-Filled Cookies for Purim
Impade (apparently from the Spanish Empanada) are filled cookies that were traditional in Venice among Sephardim for Purim. Here is a lovely description (in Spanish): http://lionsandpancakes.com/tag/impade/. I used Gil Marks' recipe from the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food to prepare a batch. My family and I enjoyed them, but felt they could use more almond flavor. Next time, I would add some almond extract to the filling.
Passover preparations invariably remind me of my British-born mother. The most unusual of her Passover specialties is English-style gefilte fish, a dish that she remembered her own grandmother preparing. Unlike gefilte fish that is boiled, English-style is pan-fried. In her book,The Book of Jewish Food, Claudia Roden refers to Jewish dishes (including fish fried in batter) which were imported from Spain and Portugal and have become Anglicized national favorites. Trust me, once you have it, you will never go back to canned fish in jelly again!
Recipe for English-Style Gefilte Fish
Can be served cold or warm. Make in advance and freeze if you wish.
2 lbs fish (cod, haddock and halibut or any combination thereof)
2 small onions
1 tsp. sugar
couple of springs of parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. matzo meal (more if needed to hold together)
Grind onions and parsley in food processor. Place in a large bowl. Grind fish in food processor. Add to onion and parsley, along with eggs, salt, pepper, sugar. Mix in matzo meal until mixture holds together. Drop by spoonfools into hot oil about 1/2 inch deep. Cook until brown on bottom. Then turn and cook other side. Drain well on paper towels.
Note: My mother always cooked the fish outside, in the backyard, electric pan set atop a picnic table, extension cord winding its way to the nearest outlet. She did not want the grease or smell of fish in the house.
January 22, 2012.... Today I heard Tina Wasserman give a wonderful presentation relating to her book, Entree to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora. Wasserman shared everything from cooking tips (save brisket bits to make kreplach), to Jewish food history and reminded her listeners that many stories are told through food. She reminded me of the bits of family food history that I want to save..... my mother's chopped and fried gefilte fish, Dad's fond memories of kasha knishes, my grandmother Sadie's beet jam with almonds.
Sfratti, shown here at a bakery in Pitigliano, Italy
A Fistful of Lentils: Jewish-Syrian Recipes
A Passage to Jewish India and Beyond
Shabbat recipes from Persia's Hidden Jews
Cookbooks/Jewish Food History:
97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, Jane Ziegelman
A Drizzle of Honey
In Memory's Kitchen
A Taste of the Past: The Daily Life and Cooking of a 19th Century Hungarian Jewish Homemaker, Andres Koerner, author and illustrator
My related articles:
The Kochbuch, Legacy, December 2007, p. 6-7