Reshas!!

Reshas or Reshikas as they are sometimes called, are a favorite in our family. A resha is not actually sweet or savory; it is light and has a crunch that is sensational, especially if you love texture in your food! With a piece of abedahu, a few olives, some raki……our Happy Hour.

Reshas with a cup of coffee or tea and with a chunk of sharp cheese, a delight! My husband and my sons love them with dips such as tarama (a Sephardic caviar spread), with tzatziki (a Greek yogurt dip), and with ajada (a potato and garlic dip). Mostly, they love knowing they are in the kitchen, and grab one when passing through!!!!  

Reshas take time to make.

So….how does one make these divine reshas?     Start by making a yeast dough.

Kaye’s Resha Recipe

2 packets of Yeast Powder or 4 heaping tblsp of dry yeast

1 1/2 C + 1 tsp sugar

2 C lukewarm water

1 C oil

6 – 8 C flour

Start with 2 packets of fresh yeast ( always check expiration date on package).  Place in a glass bowl. (*rinse bowl in warm water first).  Add 1/2 C of lukewarm water. Add 1 tsp of sugar.  Set aside in a warm place ( a toaster oven or microwave….not turned on).  Allow yeast to proof ( foam), about 20 minutes.

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Meanwhile, sift flour into a mixing bowl.  (How much flour? you ask.)  Start with 1 – 2 C to get mixing started. Add 1 ½ C of lukewarm water, oil, and 1 1/2 C of sugar.  You’ll note that we have said “lukewarm” water several times.  This means…..not cold from the tap, and not hot.  Hot water will kill the yeast, and not only will your dough not rise, it will become heavy and brick like. Trust me….I’ve figured in the past that if warm is good, hot is better.  Was I wrong!  I ended up with a batch of doorstops, paperweights and hockey pucks!!!!   SO…warm means….just that, warm!!!!  (Now, go forth and figure out for yourself what that means!!!)

My mom use an electric Mix Master with a dough hook.

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As you start mixing, add the foaming yeast mixture. Then, add additional sifted flour, approximately 1/2 cup at a time…..ultimately about 7 Cups. (Add it slowly….it will “suddenly” start to come away from the sides of the bowl and become “dough”). When it begins to come away from the sides, turn the dough onto a floured wood surface or table, adding approximately 1/2 cup additional flour. Work the dough; knead it. You want the dough not to be sticky as long as you can handle it without it sticking to your hands. To achieve this feel with the least amount of flour produces the best results. (You’ll get the feel of it, honest!)

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Put it in a bowl, cover with a piece of Pam-sprayed plastic wrap. Tuck the plastic edges in nice and cozy! Put the dough in a “warm” (i.e. draft-free) place and let it rise for about an hour. My mom will tell you this is a good time to go make the beds, or straighten up the house. My cousin will tell us it’s a good time to run up to Neiman’s and see what’s new. I’ll tell you it’s a great opportunity to start preparing some biscocho dough and make a day of baking!!!! You choose!

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After it rises for an hour, punch it down…

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Cut the dough into walnut sized pieces.

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Roll each piece into a long rope, perhaps 12″ long:

Turn into a pretzel-like shape.  “Paint” with an egg-wash and dip into sesame seed.  Place onto parchment lined cookie sheet.

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Now, let them rest for another hour under cover as they rise again. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven. Here’s the important part: place baking sheet on low oven rack for about 10 minutes or until bottom of reshas begin to turn a golden color. Then place them on the upper rack of the oven. It should take about another 10 – 15 minutes until the tops become a golden brown as well. (This depends on the oven and might take a try or two to figure out the exact timing).

Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Return them to a 200 degree for 1 hour to “biscochar” ( crisp ’em up). Enjoy!!!

Now you’re ready.     Get your raki…..slice the abedahu.  A few greek olives…..turn on Port Said……a few reshas.   It’s time for Happy Hour!     Enjoy!

~Bendichas Manos~

Burekas!

I posted about Burekas earlier……now let’s bake some!

An absolute favorite in any Sephardic household…and to any guest at a Sephardic table…is the bureka!

A flavorful, savory, tasty filled pastry that can simply melt in your mouth! Each community has their unique varieties; each family, their favorites! Our “Rhodesli” family, (from the Island of Rhodes, currently Greece, but in the times of our family, a Turkish or Ottoman possession) loves this moon shaped pastry, filled with a “conduchu” (filling) of rice and cheeses, as well as those filled with a mouth-watering mixture of sautéed eggplant, onions and tomatoes!

My grandmother was always baking burekas in the kitchen, along with lots of other homemade goodies! I remember my mom and her aunt spending hours preparing and baking these treats, and the amazing aroma that filled the house when I got home! As our sons have grown, Grandma’s burekas have been a favorite for snacks, special meals, breakfast….even in their lunch boxes! I think they are my husband’s favorite Sephardic treat.  They are flavorful, delicious and definitely filled with love!!!

Now that I am learning the art alongside my mom, I can absolutely appreciate the work, skill and patience that goes into making them.

My mom came to bake today and we made burekas of both kinds. The house smells heavenly! I am learning from her the joy of baking and of sharing these very special treats!!! Here we share her recipes and some of her tips on making them. Let us know what you think!

Begin by making the filling.

Kaye (Hasson) Israel’s recipe for Rice/Cheese Burekas

Ingredients:

5 C Water

1 tsp Salt

8 oz Cottage Cheese

2 C Rice

1 C Feta Cheese

1-1/2 C Romano Cheese

(Optional) Parmesan instead of Romano

½ to 1 C Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

4 Lge Eggs (5 to 7 if smaller)

Bring water and salt to boil. Add 2 Cups rice (rinsed and drained), cover, and keep on a simmer flame until all the water is absorbed. (Prox 30 minutes constantly watched.).

Remove from flame; allow to cool!

Mash rice w/potato masher; Add cheeses and eggs and continue to mash. Mixture should be damp, not dry.

Kaye (Hasson) Israel’s Recipe for Bureka Dough

Ingredients:

3 C Ice Water

2 1/2 C Oil

1 tsp salt

10 – 12 C Flour

Fill measuring cup with ice cubes, add water to 3 C mark on measuring cup. In large mixing bowl, add mix of water and ice, oil and salt. Let stand for as few minutes for water to get ice cold before beginning to add flour. Continue to mix. As flour begins to take on elastic consistency of dough, remove ice cubes. Knead until dough is not sticky and has the consistency of a pie dough.

Separate dough into 4 portions. Pinch off “walnut” sized balls and place on a work surface. Work each ball in the palm of your left hand (if you are right handed). Use your right hand to tuck the dough under and into itself, working to make it a smooth ball. As balls are formed, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Once all the balls are prepared and the dough has had a chance to “rest,” begin by placing 6 balls on work surface. Using your fingers, press out the dough; then, with a small rolling pin, make oval shaped, flat forms.


Using a tablespoon or small scoop, scoop filling into the middle of the flatten dough.

After all 6 have been filled, fold each on in the middle, pinching the edges shut and making a moon shaped, filled pastry.

You can make a beautiful edge by pinching and rolling under the edges (see video clip). Or you can use a fork to crimp the edges with a nice, clean pattern. (Remember, you “taste” first with your eyes.).

Continue with all the dough. This recipe SHOULD make approximately 84 burekas. Place on parchment lined baking sheets. Using a pastry brush, “paint” with a wash made by beating an egg and 2 drops of water. Finish with a sprinkle of grated cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes…or until golden brown. They are divine right out of the oven! Can be frozen and easily be warmed again in oven or toaster oven. (Note: Microwave makes them soggy. You can zap for a few seconds, then put them in an oven or toaster oven to warm). Great for a brunch…for a snack. Anytime is the right time for a Bureka!!!

~Bendichas Manos
BendichasManos.com
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Baking Burekas in Atlanta – The Ladies of Or Ve Shalom

Congregation Or Ve Shalom in Atlanta isn’t just the oldest Sephardic synagogue in the southeast; it’s currently home to over 400 families in the greater Atlanta area and home of one of the stellar Sephardic Sisterhoods in the country.

The Sisterhood is known for their baking of Burekas and other Sephardic delicacies and treats throughout the year, leading up to the synagogue’s Bazaar and other opportunities for the community to stock their freezers with these delicious and memory evoking treats! They are also known as the publishers of one of the best known and loved Sephardic Cookbooks, ‘The Sephardic Cooks – Comé Con Gana’, a compendium of dearly loved recipes in the Rhodesli Sephardic tradition. First published in 1971, the book has been re-printed many times and can still be purchased by contacting the synagogue office at 404.633.1737 (the book is $25/copy to addresses in the USA…..check office for details)
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Or Ve Shalom Sisterhood gathers each Tuesday to bake. Ladies who have come for years now bring their daughters and granddaughters to join in the tradition – a new generation learning the recipes and tips from ‘the pros.’ The great cookbook author and food critic Joan Nathan went to Atlanta to watch them and wrote about her experience in a wonderful piece for The New York Times (Read it here). The Atlanta Jewish Times (read it here) wrote about the community maintaining tradition through their baking, as well.

In February of this year at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, a short film was shown called ‘Tuesday’s are for Burekas,’ by Justin Newton. Take a look at it here.

Those of us who love them, always knew the Bureka was worthy of such fame. Thanks to the ladies of Or Ve Shalom for making sure the Bureka is getting its due!

~Bendichas Manos
BendichasManos.com
on Facebook: Bendichas Manos!

Baking Biscochos

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After Pesah….Time for baking! Here is my mom’s recipe for making Biscochos! (you asked ….here it is!) Biscochos are often called tea biscuits. We think of them as a “biscotti”, a crunchy treat! Biscochos are a bit sweet and are wonderful with your morning coffee (could be afternoon or evening coffee or tea or even milk, for that matter!!) If you’ve been to our home, my mom’s house, our synagogue, you’ve had my mom’s Biscochos. They are ‘twice baked,’ which gives them that extra crunch. A very special part of our cultural repertoire.

They’re made with love – that, you can definitely taste it!

Here’s the recipe. My mother takes great pleasure in sharing her recipes and techniques and having her ‘students’ excel on their baking journey. Give them a try! And let us know how you’re enjoying them!

Ingredients:

1 Cup eggs

1 C sugar

3/4 C oil

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla flavoring

5 – 7 C flour

Topping:

1 egg + 1 drop of water, beaten well

sesame seeds

(alternative to sesame seeds: cinnamon and sugar or “sprinkles”)

These are my mom’s directions:

With electric mixer, beat eggs and oil in a mixing bowl. Add sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until well blended. Add flour and baking powder gradually, knead into a medium dough until no longer sticky.

*The ‘Cup’ method of method of measuring eggs is important. Eggs come in different sizes – Medium, Large, Jumbo. By measuring by the Cup, one is more likely to get a more uniform measure. It makes a significant enough difference. Get as close to 1 Cup as possible.

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Place onto floured work area and finish kneading dough with additional flour as needed. Dough should not be sticky as long as you can handle it without it sticking to your hands.

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Take walnut-sized pieces and roll down on table with palms of hands into a rope about 5 inches long and only 1/2 inch thick.

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Press down with fingers to create channel;

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Fold rope over and cut slits into the edge.

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Join into a bracelet shape. Brush egg on top side.
Dip top side into sesame seeds. (or sprinkles)
If using cinnamon/sugar on top, no egg wash needed.

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Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 12 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from pan. Allow to cool.

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After they are cooled, return to oven at 200 degrees for one hour. This is where they get that extra crunch – the all important ‘biscucharing’ process.

Now……time to sit down with a cup of coffee and a Biscocho and relax!

~Bendichas Manos
BendichasManos.com
Facebook: Bendichas Manos!

Biscochos….now available commercially!

Now that Pesah has ended, it’s time to begin baking again! Looking forward to having Biscochos in the house to share with friends and to have with a cup of coffee or tea ….ummm! What could be better!

For the uninitiated, a Biscocho is a round ‘tea biscuit’….a twice baked (think biscotti) treat.

For those who don’t bake, don’t have someone to make them for you, don’t live close to one of the wonderful Sisterhoods who make them….you’re finally in luck!!!! Biscochos are now commercially available online! Yep….even on Amazon!

Sarah’s Biscochos, the passion project of Dr. Linda Gettinger-Dinner, are being baked in a commercial kitchen in Sunrise, FL and shipped to arrive at your door within two to three day!

Starting with memories of the wonderful Sephardic delicacies made by her maternal grandparents who came from Isantbul and Izmir, and the unforgettable, twice baked, crispy and crunchy Biscochos made by her mother Sarika, of Blessed Memory, Linda set out to keep the tradition and taste alive!

“As a tribute to our Mother and Grandma —from the Old World, to the New World, to YOUR World— we offer you a taste of love, tradition, and sacred memories deliciously prepared as the best of Sephardic specialties!” And she’s doing it with a twist….offering gluten-free, sugar-free, chocolate chip and fancy sprinkles options to the mix!

Visit her website Sarah’s Biscochos. Or look her up on Amazon. They look delicious!
Kudos, Linda, for bringing our traditions and special treats to the mainstream market! Wishing you muchos y buenos and much success as you grow!!!

~Bendichas Manos

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Megina! 2019

*A note about our Posts. Often you will see some words in a different color, perhaps the name of a song, the name of a food or of a specific ritual. It is usually a “link.” If you click on it, it will take you to a recording of that song, a recipe for that food or an explanation of that ritual. If you haven’t yet, give it a try! It enriches the experience. Example: Yehoram Goan’s ‘Ken Su Piense.’ (as a side note: you can purchase the entire album of Yehoram Gaon singing some of the Pesah favorites in Ladino on CD by contacting Hatikvah Music at Klezcorner@aol.com)

Cooking time!

As we begin to prepare for Pesah, it’s time to pull out the favorite family recipes, those familiar dishes that bind generations together, remind us of our connectedness…..brings us back to the familiar.  One of the staples of our seder meal is a megina, sometmes refered to as ‘mina,’ or a ‘meat quajado.’

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My mom’s is made with crumbled matzah mixed in giving it a meat casserole- like consistency once cooked and able to be cut into and served in squares. The ‘mina’ version is often made with layers of soaked and softened matzahs and constructed more like a meat lasagna. I am sharing the recipe as my mom makes it for our family and as she has taught it in community cooking classes. This is one of those dishes you can customize to your liking, adding different spices for a differnt flair ( think cumin or ‘ras el hanut,’ diced peppers or even cilantro instead of parsley, to name a few).  This version is made with ground beef, although ground turkey or ground chicken could be substituted. Let us know what you think!

My Mom’s (Kaye Israel) Recipe for Passover ‘Megina’ (meat casserole) {sometimes called Quajado de Carne or Mina}

As one of my friends points out, anytime you start with sautéed onions and meat……how can you go wrong?

2 C chopped onions
2 lbs ground meat
2 tblsp oil
1/2 tsp pepper (to taste)
1 tblsp salt
1/4 c parsley, chopped
8 – 10 eggs
1 C farfel (soaked in warm water, and squeezed dry) or 4 sheets matzah (soaked in warm water, squeezed dry and crumbled)
touch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Brown onions in oil.

 

 

Add meat and continue to brown.

 

 

Transfer to bowl and allow to cool. Add salt, pepper, parsley and farfel (or matzah). Add 2 beaten eggs at a time until eggs are mixed in.

 

 

Grease 9 x 13 inch pan (pyrex type) and heat in oven for 2 – 3 minutes. Pour mixture into pan.

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Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool. Cut into squares and serve. Delish!!!!

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We serve this as part of our holiday meal.  It’s also a staple during the week. Easy to cut a square for lunch and serve with a light salad for lunch or easy dinner.   Easy to transport for those who need to take a lunch to work or school. (I have one cousin who looks forward to megina each year with cranberry sauce on the side. I know, they didn’t have cranberries in Rhodes. That’s how we create new traditions!) Enjoy it!   Make it your own!

~Bendichas Manos