Monday, October 12, 2015

A Taste of the East

I feel like I'm constantly ranting about how people always equate Jewish food with Eastern European food: matzoh balls and gefilte fish, bagel and lox.  I didn't try matzoh ball soup until college, was introduced to lox at a weekend sleepover in elementary school (and thought it was really weird; I've come around), and have yet to meet a gefilte fish I want to eat.

So, I wanted to share some photos from an event I participated in September.  Having had so many "yes, I'm Jewish, and no, I never tried matzoh ball soup until college" conversations, I jumped at the chance to demo a traditional Iranian Jewish recipe at A Taste of the East, a night welcoming Rosh Hashana -- the Jewish New Year, with flavors from The Middle East and Mediterranean.  It was a night of dinner, music, and storytelling, all celebrating the culture of Sephardic Jews.


I performed one of three demos of Sephardic Jewish food.  Orly Olivier of Petit Takett made Tunisian harissa, and Deborah Gorman of Sorbabe made bourekas–Turkish-Greek cookies filled with ground walnuts and dipped in a sweet syrup.  And I made faloodeh sib–a refreshing combination of rosewater and shredded apples that is the traditional Yom Kippur fast-breaking food among Iranian Jews.


It was a great time. I'd never done anything like this before, but cooking and chatting in an industrial kitchen with these ladies was a treat and an education, and sharing my family recipes with a warm, interested crowd, while being schooled on some foods that were new to me, felt wonderful.

As people milled through the space, I stood at a table decorated with black and white photos of my grandparents and shredded apples against a box grater, and then added sugar, water, rosewater, and ice to perfectly balance the rosewater's intense aroma with just the right amount of sweet.

I had a couple friends, a few cousins, and my parents in attendance.  I was really happy to have these familiar faces in the crowd when we arrived at the storytelling portion of the evening.  I spoke about my uncle, a distinguished physician, affectionately known by his grandkids as "Lulu", who would leave Yom Kippur services at the synagogue early to go home and prepare faloodeh sib for his family. I wasn't the only one tearing up as we remembered this sweet man.

Recalling old memories of food and family, as we make new ones with new friends.  More of this, please.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Mom's Polo Shevid Baghali in Lucky Peach

Those hands belong to my mom, Violet.  She is halving baghali, fava beans, for one of my favorite dishes of hers, polo shevid baghali.  I am beyond thrilled to report that I got to cook this dish with her, and interview her about her own food memories, for the Lucky Peach website's "We Love Mom" column.  I've loved Lucky Peach magazine since its inception, but always had a problem with the boy's club vibe that came off its mostly male, mostly restaurant chef writing.  This column is the opposite, as it celebrates traditional home cooking (though many of the moms, and other parents, profiled are far from traditional), and paints a broad ethnic picture of American kitchens today -- all with adorable old-school pictures of the writers and their moms.  Suits me just fine; happy to be a part of it.  Check out my story here!