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Tomorrow is a cooking day…..and tomorrow night marks the first night of Passover – the first Seder. We’re all busy preparing our homes, shopping, and preparing for the holiday.  I thank you for allowing me to share one last message before we begin the Festival.
This is a time for gathering together. We read the Haggadah and tell the story of our delivery as a people from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the land of Israel. It is a cornerstone of our being a people. So central is the journey from slavery to freedom, from oppression to self-reliance, that we retell this story each year. We can only appreciate our freedom if we remember our enslavement. We can only appreciate our wholeness of we remember our brokenness. We can only appreciate our own land of Israel, a home for all the Jewish people, if we recall our desperation and desolation when we had nowhere else to turn.
So – we tell the story, year after year, from generation to generation. And with the telling, we serve our favorite foods. Again, passing from one generation to the next our savory dishes, favorite recipes, each with a special name, with special textures and flavors and all with their own memories. These are the stories – and the foods, that bind us together as a people and keep us connected as a family. How very strong is the bond that stories – and food – provides!
Our family Passover seder this year will bring together a big group – mashala!- all somehow connected to my grandparents, of blessed memory, Isaac (Hacco) Hasson and Sarota Benveniste Hasson. Both were born on the Island of Rhodes (at the time part of the Ottoman empire, Turkey), at the end of the 19th century. Could they ever had imagined that over a hundred years later, their children, grandchildren, down to their great great great grandchildren would still be connected, gathering together (in person and via Facebook) to remember their names, remember their stories, and together carry on the traditions that they, too, brought forth from the generations before them! How wonderful that is!
Our Seder will include readings, stories and songs in English, Hebrew and Ladino, the Judeo-Spanish of our Sephardic family. The foods will be leaven free with flavors and names related to our Turkish, Spanish, Mediterranean roots.
We hope the recipes, stories and links we’ve shared with each other help to entice, and enrich our experiences and strengthen our bonds.

May you enjoy your time together with family and friends; may you tell the story of our people and the lessons of our journey. May you tell stories and remember those of our families who are no longer with us physically, so their memories stay alive in our hearts and those of our children and their lives continue to bless us. May we keep the traditions of our ancestors and create new ones with our children. May our gatherings bring blessings – and may our hands, the hands that prepare these foods that nourish our souls and keep our traditions alive, always be blessed.
Pesah Alegre!
~ Bendichas Manos

Marcia Weingarten
http://BendichasManos.com
On Facebook: Bendichas Manos!

 

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Thanks to Neil Sheff who has grown up in Los Angeles with the Rhodeslis and absorbed the soul of this community – we now can hear the words, melodies and tones of the Haggadah as it’s been chanted by our parents and grandparents in the Rhodesli tradition.  Neil, a leader of the Sephardic community throughout the world, is also the President of the Sephardic Educational Center as well as a practicing attorney in Beverly Hills, CA.  Click on the links below, close your eyes and let your heart smile (as mine has been doing all evening!).  You’ll love this!

Neil…..this is an unbelievably beautiful gift you have given us.  It’s like having long missed generations here with us again. Thank you, Pasha!

Neil Sheff – Pesah 1  

Neil Sheff – Pesah 2

Neil Sheff – Pesah 3

Neil Sheff – Pesah 4

Neil Sheff – Pesah 5

Neil Sheff – Pesah 6

Neil Sheff – Pesah 7

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Every year, I like to post the lyrics to two Pesah songs from the Parade of Hits we enjoy at our Seder – the Ladino versions of ‘An Only Kid’…’Un Kavretiko’ and ‘Who Knows One’…..’Kien Su Pience.’   (click on the links next to the songs to hear Yehoram Gaon sing them).

Everyone looks forward to these songs.  They help define ‘our’ Seder.  Our folks sang these songs when they were growing up, be it here in L.A., in Seattle or Montgomery, Alabama.   And their parents before them in our beloved Rhodes. (There was always a part when my Dad, of Blessed Memory, who grew up in Seattle and my Aunt Belina, of Blessed Memory, who grew up in Montgomery, would add a line to ‘Kien Su Piense’ that both their parents’ had used…. “Eloenu shebashamayim, nos iremos a Yerushalayim, con la caravana grande.'”…..we always waited for them to chime in with that!!!).  Our kids and grandchildren have learned them, their spouses and friends as well.  L’dor v’dor.  May we keep singing them for generations to come!

I find myself playing this music, along with my other favorite Ladino albums and Middle Eastern tunes when I’m in the midst of holiday cooking.  It conjures up memories of days gone by, generations past.  That invisible chain that connects us….how I love that feeling and that bond.

Have a good week as you prepare to greet your family for a Pesah Alegre…..a good, meaningful, joyful celebration together. Moadim LeSimha!

~Bendichas Manos

AN ONLY KID – LADINO VERSION: UN KAVRETIKO

Un kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el gato, y komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre, por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el perro, y modrio al gato, ke komio el kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el palo, y aharvo el perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el fuego, y kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino la agua, y amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim. por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el buey, y bebio a la agua, ke amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el shochet, y degoyo al buey, ke bebio a la agua, ke amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko, ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el Malach Hamavet, y degoyo al shochet, ke degoyo al buey, ke bebio a la agua, ke amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el Santo Bendicho, y degoyo al Malach Hamavet, ke degoyo al shochet, ke degoyo al buey, ke bebio a la agua, ke amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

WHO KNOWS ONE? LADINO VERSION: KIEN SU PIENSE LADINO VERSION: KIEN SU PIENSE

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo es el uno?
UNO es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los dos?
DOS Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los tres?
TRES muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador,
baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los kuatro?
KUATRO madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y
Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los cinko?
CINKO livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los sesh?
SESH dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los siete?
SIETE dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los ocho?
OCHO dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, ” Kualo son los nueve?
NUEVE mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los diez?
DIEZ mandamientos de la Ley, nueve mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los onze?
ONZE ermanos sin Yosef, diez mandamientos de la Ley, nueve mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los doje?
DOJE hermanos kon Yosef, onze hermanos sin Yosef, diez mandamientos de la Ley, nueve mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los treje?
TREJE son los Ikarim, doje hermanos kon Yosef, onze hermanos sin Yosef, diez mandamientos de la Ley, nueve mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

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I want to share a story about a song in Ladino that we sing at the Seder.  It’s a song my parents remember from their youth that I had not heard during my years growing up at our Seder table.

A few year back, my friend Murray Weiss and I were leaving a meeting and talking about the upcoming Passover holiday. Recalling our shared Sephardic backgrounds we started talking (rather singing to each other!) the various Ladino songs our families sing for this holiday.  We knew the same top choices from the Sephardic Hit Parade. Then Murray asked about “Mos Abastava”… Mos what??? Murray told me it was the Ladino version of Daiyenu. Something brand new to me!

I saw my folks later and mentioned “Mos Abastava” which they both recalled with delight, saying that it was sung at their family Seders in their youth.  I looked it up, learned the words and we have since included it in our family Haggadah, hoping it will become part of our collective tradition.

At a later date, I heard a lovely tale from the brother-in-law of Ralph Amado (z”l) as to Ralph’s “introduction” of “Mos Abastava” at their family Seder.

Bits and pieces of our tradition….sometime hidden for a awhile, only to be uncovered, recalled, reclaimed and shared again.

Here are the words of “Mos Abastava”, from the Passover Agada; according to the Seattle Sephardic Tradition, 1995:

Ladino Version

Kuantos grados buenos a el Kriador sovre nos:

Si mos kitava de Ayifto, i non aziya en eyos justicias, mos abastava

Si aziya en eyos justicias, i non aziya en sus dioses, mos abastava

Si aziya en sus dioses, i non matava a sus mayores, mos abastava

Si matava a sus mayors, i non dava a nos a sus aciendas, mos abastava

Si dava a nos a sus aciendas, i non rasgava a nos a la mar, mos abastava

Si rasgava a nos a la mar, i non mos aziya pasar entre eya por lo seco, mos abastava

Si mos aziya pasar entre eya por lo seco, i non afinkava muestros angustiadores entre el, mos abastava

Si afinkava muetros angustiadores entre el, i non abastesia maestro menester en el dizierto cuarenta anyos, mos abastava

Si abastecia muestro menester en el dizierto cuarenta anyos, i non mos aziya comer a la magna, mos abastava

Si mos aziya comer a la magna, i non dava a nos a el Shabbath, mos abastava

Si dava a nos a el Shabbath, i non mos ayegava delantre monte de Sinai, mos abastava

Si mos ayegava delantre monte de Sinai, i non dava a nos a la ley, mos abastava

Si dava a nos a la ley, i non mos aziya entrar en tierra de Yisrael, mos abastava

Si mos aziya entrara en tierra de Yisrael, i non fraguava a nos a cas de el Santuvario, mos abastava

***

Sharing traditions…making memories!

Pesah Alegre ~ Moadim L’Simha!!

~Bendichas Manos

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After a whirlwind trip to New York for a very special wedding, I returned home and got into ‘Pesah Prep’ mode.  When I walked into my mom’s home on Sunday morning, she had already prepared and fried 6 dozen Keftes de Prassa!! She knows they are a favorite for so many in our family and she wanted to make sure she had them made and ready for the family to enjoy!!

We serve Prassa (leeks) at Pesah as they are a spring vegetable.  We also serve them at Rosh Hashanah as part of the ‘yehi ratzonis’ – the Rosh Hashanah Seder.

In our family, there are vegetarians – (other families make them with ground meat.)
This is my mom’s method for Keftes de Prassa.

Ingredients:

1 large onion – chopped

8 medium stalks of leek

3 eggs

2 tblsp matzah meal

1 C mashed potato or 1 C mashed potato flakes

pepper to taste

*optional pinch of red pepper flakes

*****(One side note – for ease of preparation: Trader Joe’s has packages of pre-cut leek in the freezer section – cuts down on preparation time!  Boil the leek for about 20 − 30 minutes until soft. Rise under cool water. Squeeze water from leek. (then squeeze again – and again. Then, just one more time – it is amazing how match liquid can be removed, and so doing will help ensure the best possible results.  Separately chop and boil the onion in a pot of water. Then continue as below.)

Prepare leeks. Cut 1/4″ from top and bottom. Cut in half vertically. Soak and clean leeks throughly. (leeks, by nature, often have a good amount of fine dirt between leaves. Make sure to clean carefully) Cut into 1/2″ pieces.

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Boil cut leek and chopped onion in a pot of water ( covering mixture), until vegetables are soft and limp.

Drain ( squeeze out) all liquid. Add additional ingredients. Blend into an even leek-onion mixture. Shape into patties.

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Fry : 2/3 C oil

Fry on medium heat until both sides are slightly browned.

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Drain on a paper towel. Divine freshly made…..can be frozen, sealed tight.

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Defrost and place on a cookie sheet and warm in the oven at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until warmed throughly.

Enjoy!!!!!!

~ Bendichas Manos

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One of our family favorites is Sevollas Reinados, stuffed onions.  Savory and delicious, with a simple substitution, it can be Pesah friendly, and always appreciated as part of a holiday meal.   These are made with ground beef (although I prepare it with ground chicken which makes it a bit lighter, and my family prefers the taste.)  Another item that can be made ahead and frozen.  Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Approx 12 smaller sized onions

1 C matzah meal

1 lb ground beef

1 egg

S & P to taste

‘Handful’ of chopped parsley – I recommend 3/4 C (you can substitute or mix in cilantro for a punch)

1 beat egg  and 1 C matzah flour or matzah meal to use to coat top of each before browning

Sauce:

I C tomato sauce

1 C water

1 tsp sugar

 

Cut onions in half lengthwise.

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Separate outer layers in double thickness.  (Save inner  pieces)

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Combine ground beef, egg, parsley,  and chopped onion (from inner core saved when separating sections.)  (You knew we’d use them sonewhere!).  Add matzah meal.

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Fill onion shells with this mixture

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Dip meat side into matzah flour or matzah meal then into beaten egg before placing into frying pan with heated oil to brown.

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After browning, place meat side up in casserole pan in which bottom has been covered with remaining sliced and chopped onions.

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Cover with sauce made of tomato sauce, water and a tsp of sugar.  Cover casserole and bake in oven at 300 degrees for 1 hour.

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This is one of many stuffed vegetable dishes we frequently prepare – stuffing tomatoes, zucchinis, small eggplants, bell peppers, cabbage leaves.  During the year, instead of matzah meal we often add bread crumbs or softened slices of bread for a binder – some use potato flakes (I like to use Panko).  Often, a ‘grainiko’  (a small grain – a handful) of rice is added to the meat mixture.    { I would make a heartier sauce – tomato sauce, lemon juice, water, garlic, S & P – and simmer it while I prepare my vegetables.  Then pour it over the vegetables.  That would make much more ‘caldo’ (sauce) when the stuffed vegetables are served with rice and the sauce spooned over the rice – but that’s for another time during the year!}

So many dishes to prepare for the week!   My mom has already started!  There is megina (Meat and matzah quajado), a delicious new chicken to try from Rachel Sheff (SEC Food Group  on Facebook ) Keftes de prassa (Leek patties), Bamya (okra), my cousin Sarita will make our family’s Haroset – then there’s the desserts – marochinos (almond macaroons),  mustachudos (nut confections), ashuplados (meringue clouds)…… wow!

Some of the best memories are made while preparing and cooking for the holidays.  Spend time with your families.  Remember and reflect on holidays past – tell stories; remember relatives. L’dor v’dor.  This is how we keep traditions fresh – how we keep memories alive.

Which reminds me – watch the movie ‘Coco,’ the new Pixar/Disney film.  Beautiful lessons on family, traditions, memory.   Nice to share other’s cultural traditions – nice to know the similarities we share – the importance of family and memory.  Beautiful film.  Perfect season to share it.

Busy time in the kitchen. We’ll share more in the days to come.  Looking forward to hearing of your menus, your traditions and your memories.

May your hands always be blessed!

~Bandichas Manos

 

 

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My cousin is getting married this weekend.  Actually, it’s my cousin’s grandson.    This is the eldest grandson of my mom’s eldest nephew – and my mother and her nephew grew up practically as siblings.  We’re a close knit group. We try and keep our relationships strong and keep our traditions alive.

With the wedding this weekend, the cousins got together and made bombonieres, the favors given to each guest, made of Jordan almonds and foil-wrapped chocolate kisses, all wrapped together in tulle, with a ribbon tying it together.  These are traditions likely woven into our customs from our Greek and Italian neighbors. The almonds are bitter on the inside with sweet coating on the outside. There are five almonds in the package – an indivisible number. So should be their life.  Through the ups and downs, the bitter and sweet – they will face life together, and remain united and as one.  And the number five corresponds to five blessings the guests wish for the new couple – health,  happiness, children, financial success and long life. The chocolate kisses… I think they looked pretty in the mix, and added an extra touch of sweetness! All are gathered together in a circle of tulle, tied with a ribbon that is imprinted with the names of the bride and the groom and either the date of their wedding or a special saying for them.   A nice keepsake of the day.

 

Yesterday, my mom made masapan (Marzipan) for the wedding, another tradition.  “If my mother or my sister were here, they would make it.  As long as I’m able, I’ll make it, so we can carry on the tradition. You girls learn to make it for the next generation.”

As we’ve shared on this blog before, ‘masapan’……marzipan….is that delicious sweet that our mothers lovingly make for engagements, weddings, a brit mila or a Bar (and today even a Bat) Mitzvah.  Basically a homemade almond confection made with ground almonds and sugar, marzipan traces it’s origin to …..well….that depends.  Some say the Persian empire, introduced to Europe by the Turks;  others claim the origin to be Spain.  In any case, it got to us, was a delicacy on our beloved Island of Rhodes, and our grandmothers brought it here with them when they came to these shores.

While some from Eastern Europe talk of marzipan being colored and fashioned into miniature, fruit-like shapes, our variation is kept in it’s white, pure state, made into a simple design.

My mother, Kaye Hasson Israel, uses a recipe shared with her by Rebecca Levy. Here is the recipe and photos. This recipe makes about 125 pieces of masapan.

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6 C almonds
3 C sugar
4 C water
Start with raw almonds.    To blanche, bring a pot of water to a boil. ( enough water to cover the almonds).  When water boils, add almonds and leave them in for 4 to 5 minutes (until skin is loose).
Rinse in a colander with cold water.  Remove the skins from the almonds and place almonds into a bowl of cold water ( to prevent discoloration).
Take a clean towel and dry almonds thoroughly.
Put almonds into food processor with blade.
Grind to a fine texture.
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In the meantime,  mix sugar and water and heat over medium/high flame.  Make sure sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil.  This is to make a sticky syrup.  Stir and watch carefully so it does not discolor or burn.

 

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Test for correct stickiness by removing spoon from pot, allow it to cool a bit, placing a drop on your fingers and noting a ‘thread’ of sugar when pressing then pulling apart finger and thumb.

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At this point, lower the heat and add ground almonds.  Thoroughly  blend and constantly stir mixture.   Cook and stir masapan until it reaches a dough-like consistency.(continuously stir over medium heat…..seriously….. continuously stir.  It can easily burn if not consistently stirred.  A good opportunity to develop those arm muscles!!)  ( it will cleanly leave the sides and bottom of the pan when ready).   Remove from heat and allow to thoroughly cool.

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Once cooled, knead on your rolling surface to create a smooth dough.  Pinch off small portions and roll into a long strip.  (Perhaps cut into 10 – 12 portions before rolling).

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Keep a bowl of water handy.  Dampen your rolling surface and hands, as it will make it easier to roll out.  Cut at an angle into diamond shaped pieces.

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Our tradition has been to top with a decorative silver ball ( dragees ). These are for decoration and not to be consumed. (although for this wedding, we topped them with decorative gold balls)

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For engagements, our tradition has been to make a “mano” (hand) fashioned out of masapan, with silver dragees across the ring finger.  This is fashioned on a tray, surrounded by cut pieces of masapan, jordan almonds and often, a gold leafed piece of ‘aruda’ ( the rue plant).

Masapan Mano

Like all our delicacies, masapan takes a bit of practice.  And the results are divine!
Always a blessing to have these special traditional treats made by loving hands for the special occasions in our lives.  And l’dor v’dor.  May we all continue the traditions for our children and our children’s children.
Bendichas manos! As with the love in our hearts, may our hands continue to be blessed!

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