When you think of Mexico, it is unlikely that you think of its rich Jewish food tradition. However, there have been Mexican-Jewish communities for centuries, starting with those who fled the Spanish Inquisition, to more recent immigrant communities from the Middle East and Europe. Mexican-Jewish cuisine was first brought to our attention when we learned about Masa Madre, a bakery combining it’s owners’ Jewish and Mexican roots in Chicago. America is now home to many with Jewish-Mexican heritage, and home cooks and restaurants across the country have developed Seder menus to celebrate the first night of Passover with a Mexican flair. Jewish influence in Mexico comes from both Sephardic (Iberian and Mediterranean) and Ashkenazi (Central and Eastern European) traditions, providing a wide range of culinary traditions and hybrids. If you are looking for some inspiration, Chef Julian Medina shares his recipes for Matzah Tostada Yucatan Style, Chipotle Brisket and Matzoh Ball Soup. Roberto Santibañez brings recipes for Lamb and Guajillo tamales, along with tropical charoset, and chocolate-covered poached pears. Santibañez’ Rosa Mexicano restaurants even offer a dedicated Mexican Passover menu. Paty Jinich, a Mexican-American with Eastern European roots has long been cooking crossover Jewish-Mexican fare. Here is Jinich’s recipe for Nana José’s Chocolate Pecan Cake (flourless for Passover). Masa Madre also has a special offering for Passover in 2020, Flourless Café de Olla Cake (seen below), which you can get delivered nationwide for a limited time!
The Jewish holiday of Passover has begun and lasts until next weekend. A major caveat to Passover cuisine is that is must be free of chametz, all leavened bread products. This has led to a proliferation of special kosher for Passover foods, and many creative uses for matzoh, which is unleavened. One of the most emblematic Passover dishes is charoset, a sweet mixture of fruit, honey and nuts, which makes a symbolic appearance on the Seder plate. There are literally thousands of recipes for charoset (some we have covered before), but there is a particular version from Morocco, called Tanzeya. Here is a recipe from Joan Nathan made with figs and spices like cinnamon and cardamon. New York Shuk sells pre-made tanzeya and has a recipe for charoset truffles (pictured below). Or if you want to go the simpler route, two matzoh sandwiched with charoset sounds pretty good to me!
We are always looking for unique dishes for holidays – and for Passover we decided to go beyond the typical charoset and matzoh concoctions (not that there’s anything wrong with those, and this recipe does also include matzoh). This sunny citrus, almond and walnut cake comes to Istanbul via the Sephardic Jewish communities of Spain. Sounds pretty good, right? You may also notice that “Gato” seems similar to the French word for cake, and is indeed the Ladino spelling for the French “gateau.”
I found a few scattered references to this online, but they all seemed to trace back to a recipe from The Book of Jewish Food (1996) by Claudia Roden, featuring recipes from around the world that put a focus on diverse Jewish populations and history. Hannah’s Nook has a recipe, and the following excerpt from Claudia Roden herself:
“One of the gastronomic successes of Sephardi culture is the very wide range of Passover cakes made with almonds or nuts instead of flour, which are characteristic of the communities. Some, like the orange cakes, have a dististinctly Iberian character. This is the Passover cake of Istanbul. Moist and aromatic, with a delicate orange flavour, it can well be served for dessert.”
What to do when you are sick of macaroons and matzoh? During Passover leavened foods are no-go, but pre-made options can get a little old. For a change of pace, check out a delicious-sounding Tunisian lamb and artichoke stew, Msoki – seen below (another recipe here). Though the community is small now, Tunisia was once home to a large Jewish population with over 100,000 members, which gave birth to unique dishes like Msoki.
I read a fascinating article a week or so back in the New York Times about Persian-Jewish Passover traditions, and how these have survived in the Diaspora (in the LA area alone there are 40,000 Jewish Persians). We are fans of Persian food in general. and so were intrigued to learn more about Jewish Iranian foodways. Though many dishes resemble other types of Persian food, One specifically Jewish dish, is gundi, a riff on Matzoh ball soup, which is instead a chicken and chickpea dumpling flavored with cardamon and turmeric. You can make your own gundi with a recipe from Savuer, or try Persian charoset, called Haleg (seen below, on matzoh). More Persian Passover recipes from Reyna Simnegar can be found on her blog.
Passover is almost here, which means it is time for all manner of unleavened treats – most importantly among them – Matzo. Matzo (also spelled Matzah or Matzoh) is a thin unleavened cracker, that can be used as a vehicle for almost any topping, savory of sweet. One of the more homey and filling dishes involving matzo is matzo brei, which is a fry-up of matzo with eggs, in some ways similar to a Spanish frittata. Tasting Table has two recipes for matzo brei: one savory, with peas and arugula and one sweet with cinnamon.
We love macarons, but the similar-sounding coconut macaroons don’t get much press on this blog. We know they are often confused with each other, even among foodies, with macroons being a coconut cookie, and macarons being a more delicate French sandwich cookie made of almond flour. As you can see, the double O really makes a world of difference. During Passover there is a prohibition against foods made with leavened flours and sometimes even corn products, according to tradition, limiting dessert options somewhat, which turned our attention to both macarons/macaroons. Macaroons, made primarily with coconut, meet this Passover dietary requirement, and due to how easy they are to make, they are really popular – even iconic – at the American Passover table. When invited to bring a snack to an event during Passover, I have often turned to coconut macaroons myself. Dan Cohen opines on the coconutty treat (and provides a recipe) in his macaroon bible, and more recipes abound online.
However, due to my focus on macaroons, I overlooked an equally suitable option – the 1-O French macaron. Macarons are made with almond flour, and not wheat, which makes them appropriate for Passover, though almond flour is unusual enough to make it a little difficult to find. The New York Times has a recipe for Kosher-for-passover macarons here, and they sound delicious. Though the 2-O macaroons are more common in America, the 1-O variety would be perfectly at home at the Passover table as well. Why not try something different?
Today is the first day of Passover, and to celebrate we are bringing you a story about Lebanese food specially made for Passover in New York City. The story centers on chef Souad Nigri, and her 30-plus year tradition of making catered meals for Passover. Typical dishes include tabbouleh and other mezes, but made Kosher for Passover with no wheat or bulgur. The story is a few years old, but now you can find Nigri’s dishes at Prime Butcher in New York.
Filed under Holidays, Links
Happy Passover! We found a pretty nice collection of international recipes to put a spin on one of the essential elements of Passover Seder dinner: Charoset. Charoset is a paste made from fruit (often figs or apples), nuts, wine and honey. The exact content of charoset varies by region and tradition, for example, this Syrian version of charoset includes apricots! Beyond switching up the ingredients, there are a million ways charoset can be altered and dressed up. Elana’s Pantry has a classic version of charoset with apples and walnuts (as depicted below), or check out these unique recipes for Afghan, Indian, Persian and Yemeni varieties. For something even more outside of the box, how about some Sephardic charoset truffles.