Passover – Pesah 2012

With Pesah just around the corner, we have received requests for favorite holiday recipes. We are reposting with pleasure some of the more requested ones. Take a look; click on the various links, enjoy this special holiday time. Let us know how your cooking adventures turned out and please feel free to share family stories with us. We’ll look forward to posting many of them. More to come!

Happy Cooking!

~”Bendichas Manos”

Passover Megina – Meat Quajado (originally posted April 16, 2011)

One of the staples of our seder meal is a Megina, sometmes refered to as “mina”, or a “meat quajado”. My mom’s is made with crumbled matzah mixed in giving it a quajado 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’ or even cilantro instead of parsley, to name a few). This version is made with ground beef, although ground turkey 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}

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
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 meat with onions in oil; transfer to bowl and allow to cool. Add salt, pepper, parsley and farfel (or matzah). Add 2 beaten eggs at a time until 8 eggs are mixed in.

Grease 9 x 13 inch pan (pyrex type) and heat in oven for 2 – 3 minutes. Pour mixture into pan. Spread remaining 2 beaten eggs to top of mix. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool. Cut into squares and serve. Delish!!!!

I am including this link, complete with some pictures, of one of our favorites, my mom’s Keftes di prassa.

What Seder would be complete without Haroset. Here is my cousin Sarita’s recipe.

We have some delicious dessert recipes in our community. Check out our recipes for some of my mom’s best: ashuplados, mustachudos (a nut confection) , masa di vino (wine cookies), and marochinos ( almond macaroons ).

I have also added the link to the beautiful Moroccan custom of “Bibhilu

Finally, a link to Yehoram Gaon’s recording of one of our favorite Ladino Pesah songs, Un Cavritico .

As with all things Passover…..enjoy the opportunity to be with family and friends. Document your family recipes and traditions, cook together, enjoy the time. With each dish we serve and each traditional song we sing, we recall lovingly those family members who are no longer with us, whose recipes and memories are present at our table, and whose names we mention at various time throughout the evening (and throughout our many family gatherings).

As we retell the Passover story, so too, we retell our family stories. I love the fact that our sons, now in their 20’s, “know” and talk about family members, several who passed away years before the boys were born…..but whose life lessons and stories are still very much a part of our family gatherings. Memories live on!

We would love to share some of your family stories with “Bendichas Manos” readers…..please feel free to send them on to us! Most important, share them at your seders. This keeps our histories and our stories alive!

A Rosh Hashana Seder

The holidays are almost here and the cooking has begun! Time for family, reflection and looking towards the year ahead.

One of the rich and unique traditions of our Sephardic families is a Rosh Hashanah Seder. It is a short service we conduct around our tables with the Rosh Hashanah evening meal, with some families doing it on both nights. Including the traditional blessings done at the holiday meal table (Kiddush, Washing of the Hands, HaMotzi), blessings are also said over symbolic foods, expressing our hopes and wishes for the year ahead. Most of the foods used are those whose names in Hebrew sound similar to one of the wishes expressed, so there is some fun associated with this!

Although primarily a Sephardic tradition, many others have begun adding the Seder to their Rosh Hashanah celebrations. My father remembers the “ratzones” from his childhood in Seattle…we began sharing the tradition with our children and friends within the past decade. Rabbi Yitz Greenberg suggests that each family add some blessings of our own, adding to our family traditions, adding puns we create around foods we include, which we have done from time to time. One of our Rebbetzins, Penina Schochet, suggested that we select a new fruit each year, having our young children be part of the process, and say a “shehecheyanu” over the addition of the new fruit, as a way to further grace our Rosh Hashanah table and include our children in selecting and trying something new.

Some families refer to this “service” as the “Yehi Ratzones”, referring to the words used “May it be Your will …” as referencing the symbolism that is to be recited. Often one hears the words “simanim”, referring to the ‘symbolic’ foods used. I will note some of the foods we eat and the translation of the blessings we say, primarily based on the materials prepared and provided by Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel (STTI) in Westwood, California, as well as materials prepared by the Maimon Family in Seattle, Washington.

Finally, my good friend, Linda Sendowski (The Boreka Diary) has some wonderful recipes for Rosh Hashana foods, specifically these symbolic foods, on her blog, which I share with you.

Check it out…and consider including some of these ideas and blessings at your Rosh Hashanah table this year.

For our Seder, we prepare a plate on the table that holds some of each symbolic food, and a prepared page for all our guests, including the blessings we will recite for the evening so all can participate. We include the Hebrew and English, and some years, the Ladino. Adapt as is comfortable for your household. We start with the Kiddush, the Shehecheyanu, Birkat Yeladim (Blessing of the Children), Washing the Hands, and the Hamotzi.

Following that, we recite a few blessings with intended good for the New Year, over some symbolic foods. The foods we use are usually plentiful during this season. Their Hebrew names, shades or colors remind us of our hopes and dreams for the year ahead. It is noted that “foods provide us an occasion to wish away our fears and verbalize our deepest hopes, as well as a chance to pun on their names in a number of local tongues”. (Source: Noam Zion in his paper Seder Rosh Hashanah).

1. Apples dipped in sugar or honey; apple cooked in sugar or honey; or candied apples:

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, to renew upon us a good and sweet year, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.

Baruch Ata Adonai Elohenu Melech Haolam Bore Peri Haetz.

2. Leeks (karti):

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our enemies be cut off, as well as those who desire to do us harm.

(this is based on the wordplay between the Hebrew word for leek, “karti”, which is similar to the word “korat”, meaning “to cut off”)

3. Beets or Spinach (“silka” is usually identified as beets; Keter Shem Tov says it refers to spinach):

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our enemies disappear, as well as those who desire to do us harm.

4. Dates:

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our enemies be consumed as well as those who desire to harm us.

(this is based on the wordplay between the Hebrew for dates, “tamar”, which is similar to a word meaning to “end” or “consume”)

5. Pumpkin or gourd (zucchini or squash; “kalavasa” is often used):

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that you should tear up any evil decrees against us and let our merits be read before you.

(this is based in the wordplay between the Aramaic word for pumpkin or gourd, “kara”, and the Hebrew word meaning to “tear”)

6. Fish (pishkado):

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our merits may multiply as the fish in the sea. Others have commented that as fish is a symbol of abundance and fertility, we ask God to Bless us with both.

7. “Ruviah”, often identified as Fenugreek, although sometimes referred to as black eyed peas or string beans. It is told that in Bagdad, it was referred to as “luviah”. Since it was similar to the Hebrew word “lev”, meaning heart, the word “ut-labevenu” (meaning “and purify us”) was added. (Linda Sendowski has a great recipe for Black Eyed Peas!)

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our merits increase and that you purify us.

8. Pomegranates ( Used the seeds in your cooking, in a salad, or see Debby Segura’s recipe for making a Granita)

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that our merits increase as the seeds of the pomegranate.

9. Head of Fish (something from the head….in our family, my Aunt Belina Hasson used to make tongue (I cannot get myself to even buy a tongue, let alone figure out how to cook it….so, since this is based on puns, we use a “head” of lettuce):

Yehi Ratzon May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our Fathers, that we may be in the forefront as the head, and not the background, as the tail.

The festival meal then follows.

In keeping with Yitz Greenberg’s suggestions, one could add:
Peaches: May it be a “peachy” year
Dates: May our single friends have many “dates” this year
Mushrooms: May our abundance “mushroom” in the years ahead….

Have fun with this and make it meaningful to your family!

My friend, Debby Segura, combines all the symbolic foods into a beautiful and tenderly delicious salad which she serves as an early course. Her recipe for a “New Year Simanim Salad” is posted here. I have served it many times….it is enjoyed by all, and the symbolism makes it ever more special! ( Debby Segura)

Finally, I am attaching a link to a YouTube series of “The Selichot of Ezra Bessaroth”, in Seattle, Washington. It is a ten-part series of the Selichot service in the tradition of the Jews of Rhodes, led by Hazzan Isaac Azose, with many in the Congregation participating. The melodies are familiar to those of us who grew up in Rhodesli Sephardic Synagogues. There is something comforting and reaffirming in melodies, memories and flavors of our youth. I hope you will take a few minutes to listen and enjoy.

(Selichot in the tradition of the Jews of Rhodes)

Please share with us any of your own family traditions….we would love to post them. Sharing keeps traditions alive and evolving for each new generation!

From my parents, Jack and Kaye Israel, my husband Robert, and our sons, Jason and David….Tizku Leshanim Rabot…May we all merit many years; Anyada Buena….a good, and meaningful New Year to you all!

~Marcia Israel Weingarten
Bendichas Manos

From NY…..a Rhodesli Seder

Thanks to Howie Franco for posting this clip of their family Pesah Seder in New York. Howie leads the Seder with his cousin Richard Franco (thanks to Sally Mann and Rae Cohen for sharing the clips!)

I love the telling of the story…..”este es el pan di afision…..” My father, Jack Israel, started reading this in Ladino during our Seders some thirty years ago. He remembered the sound of HIS father, David Liezer Israel (z’l) {hijo di Yaaco Pasha} reading it during the Seders while my dad was growing up in Seattle. Since then, several of my cousins, our children and I have begun learning the traditional Ladino rendition. L’dor v’dor…from generation to generation…..we keep our traditions alive!!

I’ve copied the words from the ‘Agada de Pesah’ (according to the customs and traditions of the Seattle Sephardic Community), edited by Isaac Azose, August 2004. Watch the clip from the Franco Seder and read along:

“Esta es el pan de la afri-ision ke komieron muestros padres en tierra de Ayifto. Todo el ken tiene ambre venga i koma; todo el ken tiene de menester venga i paskue. Este anyo aki, a el anyo el vinien en tierra de Yisrael. Este anyo aki, siervos, a el anyo el vinien en tierra de Yisrael ijos foros.”

“This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat of it; all in need come and celebrate. This year we observe it here; next year may we be in the land of Israel. This year we are slaves in exile; next year may we be free men in the land of Israel.”

Thank you to the Franco family! Record and share your family memories….with your families and with us. Together, we can keep our memories and our traditions alive!

“Bendichas Manos!”

Some final Pesah recipes, links and “The Blessing of Bibhilu”

A final post before Pesah. First, some links for desserts for your Seders or for during the week. Our previous posts for “marochinos” (almond macaroons), “mustachudos” (nut confections), “masa di vino” (wine cookies) and “ashuplados” (merguines), are always winners!! This year, as well, I want to share with you some great finds from some of the favorite blogs I follow.

I’m looking forward to trying this “Passover Raspberry or Strawberry Tart” by Jamie Doueck, posted on ‘The Jewish Hostess’. Also, “Matzah Toffee with Almonds”, posted on ‘Serious Eats‘ looks delicious and divine!! As always, my friends, Linda Capeloto Sendowski, is always cooking up something fun and special at ‘the Boreka Diary’ Finally, from ‘the Jew and the carrot’, a compendium of great Passover recipes from some of the best the web has to offer. Take a look and see what’s going on in the world of Passover food bloggers!!

One more tradition for Passover to mention again. My cousin Avi Abikzer, whose family is from Morocco, introduced the tradition of lifting the Seder plate above the heads of each family and reciting a blessing called ‘Bibhilu‘…. “Bibhilu yatzanu mi’mitzrayim” (in haste we came out of Egypt). {in this clip, Avi and Leah’s son, Evan, passes the plate over the heads of the guests as his father recites the Bibhilu blessing}

At synagogue yesterday, a friend asked if we have this custom, and I responded that it was introduced to us and we adopted it. She told me that they do it at her Seder table as her husband’s family came from Turkey, and it was their custom there.

A few years back Rabbi Daniel Bouskila wrote a story which appeared in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal titled “The Blessing of Bibhilu“. Perhaps it is a tradition you might choose to bring to your table.

Wishing you a joyful and meaningful Pesah, and good times with family and friends!

~”Bendichas Manos!”

Passover Megina (meat quajado)

One of the staples of our seder meal is a Megina, sometmes refered to as “mina”, or a “meat quajado”. My mom’s is made with crumbled matzah mixed in giving it a quajado 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’ or even cilantro instead of parsley, to name a few). This version is made with ground beef, although ground turkey 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}

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
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 meat with onions in oil; transfer to bowl and allow to cool. Add salt, pepper, parsley and farfel (or matzah). Add 2 beaten eggs at a time until 8 eggs are mixed in.

Grease 9 x 13 inch pan (pyrex type) and heat in oven for 2 – 3 minutes. Pour mixture into pan. Spread remaining 2 beaten eggs to top of mix. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool. Cut into squares and serve. Delish!!!!

As with all things Passover…..enjoy the opportunity to be with family and friends. Document your family recipes and traditions, cook together, enjoy the time. With each dish we serve and each traditional song we sing, we recall lovingly those family members who are no longer with us, whose recipes and memories are present at our table, and whose names we mention at various time throughout the evening (and throughout our many family gatherings).

As we retell the Passover story, so too, we retell our family stories. I love the fact that our sons, aged 19 and 23, “know” and talk about family members, several who passed away years before the boys were born…..but whose life lessons and stories are still very much a part of our family gatherings. Memories live on!

We would love to share some of your family stories with “Bendichas Manos” readers…..please feel free to send them on to us! Most important, share them at your seders. This keeps our histories and our stories alive!

~”Bendichas Manos”

Our Family’s Haroset

My cousin Sarita (Hasson Fields) is a great cook! She has learned our traditional family recipes and often adds a new and novel twist to update a dish and make it her own. She just finished making Haroset for our family Seder……a gathering of about 35+ at our cousin Leon’s home this year.

I always enjoy cooking with Sarita. On occasion, we’ve cooked with my mom and pass the time telling family stories of days gone by, reflecting, remembering and laughing. At times, she and I have cooked and try adapting recipes…..sometimes more successfully than others! Always a good time together. I wish we lived closer…especially when she was cooking today, so I could have filmed and photographed her making the Haroset.

Here is her recipe for Rhodesli Haroset, as made by her mom, Belina Beton Hasson (z’l) {*similar to the recipe in the Atlanta Sephardic Sisterhood Cookbook)…..for 35 people (with leftovers, for the many who like to take some home, and spread it on matzah for a treat!!) You can cut it in half ( or quarter), depending on the size of your crowd.

50 – 60 oz pitted dates
10 large red apples peeled and chopped
5 – 6 C finely chopped nuts (pecans and walnuts)
1 1/2 C sweet red wine
1/2 C white vinegar

Place apples and dates in a pot and cover with water. Cook until soft. Drain and let cool a bit. Place apple/date mixture in food processor and puree, a batch at a time. Add wine to mixture. Add chopped nuts. Add vinegar.
(Sarita’s note…..mixture should not be watery. If it is, add more nuts; if it seems too hard, add more wine.)

It is definitely delicious. Give it a try…..and let us know what you think! “Bendichas Manos”!

Ashuplados (meringues),,,,,a Pesah treat!

Ashuplados!

Meringue clouds…..a divine confection of the Gods!  A special occasion delicacy passed down by our grandmothers !

Growing up, we knew it was a very special occasion when Grandma made Ashuplados……meringue clouds!  Sweet….light as a feather, a light shell on the outside. Texture, sweetness……simply….divine!!!

They look beautiful on a sweet table, and delight young and more mature and sophisticated palettes alike!

These are one of my mom’s signature delicacies.  Last year, we prepared this post when my mom made these for my young cousin’s  “Banyo di Novia”. (She prepared them again this month for the Brit Milah and Pidyon haBen of the new baby son of the same cousin……mashala!!!) They are a superb Pesah treat, as well. Continue reading

“Once Upon a Time…….” those great Sephardic names! by Jack Israel

My dad, Jack Israel, has written many wonderful stories. He currently writes for and edits the “Shofar” for Shomrei Torah Synagogue in West Hills, CA. He has written for and edited the “El Shofar” for Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in LA, the “Lashon” for LASHA at the LA Jewish Home, the “Hamerkaz” for the SEC, “The Sephardic Star” for the Sephardic Hebrew Center…..as well as many other publications.

This is one of my favorites…..a reflection on Sephardic names, written near 50 years ago. Enjoy it! As always, your comments are welcome!

Once Upon a Time…..an Ode to Great Sephardic Names
By Jack Israel (aka Jek)

Once upon a time, when a dime was worth a dime,
the Sephardim named their children Solomon and Haim.
It was not unusual then, to hear Benjamin called Ben,
and Leon grew to Leonard, then shortened down to Len.

I sure miss all those Turkish names, like my Uncle Leachon,
and the puzzlers of the spelling game
Batsheva, Sarina and Davichon.

And what about the guy who called his offspring Rahamim,
today you know the kids would say that guy was off his beam!
Betsheva, Bohora and Sinuru –
names that were tested, tried and true…
names that will last to oblivion –
Vida,
eh, now that’s Vivian!

Baklava…and pictures from our cooking day for the Rhodesli Luncheon

What a joy it was, being with some of my favorite people at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Los Angeles as we prepared for our Rhodesli Luncheon. Spending many hours on their feet, this group came, recipes in hand, ready to prepare our traditional dishes with love. All were willing to share their recipes, techniques and ideas, and encouraged others to participate and learn. Their time and effort is greatly appreciated…..and the love came through in the delicious foods they prepared and served at the luncheon!

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Baklava is a sweet pastry made of layers of Filo dough filled with chopped nuts and bathed in a sweet syrup. It is labeled as a Turkish, Greek or any of a variety of Middle Eastern delicacy. Our families made it on the Island of Rhodes, so we claim it as our own.

There are many variation in making Baklava. Different communities feature different nut mixtures and dIfferent configurations when baking. My mom makes a rolled variety. Here is her recipe:

Kaye Hasson Israel makes Baklava

ingredients:

1 Lb prepared FIlo Dough
5 Cups almonds, ground (or other nuts of your choosing)
1 C Sugar
1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 C oil in a small bowl.
1/2 C Tasted Sesame Seeds (optional)

Prepare a mixture using ground nuts, sugar, cinnamon and gloves. Set aside.

Open package of Filo. Keep moist and usable by placing a moist cloth over the waxed paper covered batch of Filo that you are not currently using ( otherwise, Filo has a tendency to dry out).

Place one layer of Filo on your work surface. Brush with oil. Place a second layer of Filo directly on top. Brush second layer with oil.

Sprinkle nut mixture in a thin, even layer on brushed Filo. Top with one additional sheet of Filo. Brush with oil.

Begin to roll Filo tightly. Slice rolled Filo log at a diagonal. Cut approximately 1 inch in length. Place cut pieces on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes (Since ovens vary, watch as it bakes…when it begins to take on color, you can remove from the oven)

Allow to cool.

In the meantime, prepare syrup.

Syrup ingredients:

1 1/2 C Honey
1 1/2 C Sugar
1 C Water

Combine all ingredients. Boil on stove. Cook until it becomes “sticky” (if you have a cooled bit between your fingers, it should form “strings”)

When syrup is ready, pour over tray of baked Baklava. Allow syrup to soak in.

For serving, “soaked” piece of Baklava can be placed in size-to-fit paper Bake Cups (often called Cupcake liners) and placed on a serving platter.

Divine!!!!!

My good friend, Linda Capeloto Sendowski, in addition to being one of the most fun and positive people I know, is a veteran gourmet food blogger. She has published a video of my mom making Baklava as well as a few photos of our cooking day on her blog, The Boreka Diary. Check her blog often…. she is a wonderfully creative cook!

Aron Hasson has also published some pctures on the Rhodes Jewish Museum site. Another fun site to browse!!!

Enjoy visiting our sites….tell us about your cooking adventures.

Bendichas Manos!!!!