Tag Archives: joan nathan

Sephardic Pumpkin Soup

Warm, seasonal and tasty Pumpkin Soup

The prevalence of  New World fruit and vegetables Old World cuisine in is a continual source of wonder to me.

Stop and think for a moment what Italian cooking would be like without tomatoes, Szechuan, Indian or Thai cooking without the various forms of chili peppers, and of course some much of the cooking of Northern Europe would feel empty without the ubiquitous potato. We should add to that list the pumpkin. A member of the squash family, it finds many places in the cuisine of North Africa. From the many slow cooked stews served with couscous to the wonderfully sweet and satisfying pumpkin soup. [For more pumpkin ideas check our our kugelpie and challah]

As you try to add a bit of Jewish flair to your Thanksgiving celebration, let me urge you to chuck those poor, tired (and perhaps even huddled) matzo balls and whip a bit of this seasonal soup that was a staple of the Sephardic kitchens of Morocco, Libya and Tunisia. This soups appears in several forms in both Joan Nathan and Claudia Roden’s cookbooks and even makes an apprearance in Gourmet’s last collection of recipes published just before the magazine was shuttered.

In this recipe I added butternut squash to the mix, but feel free to experiment with what is in season and tastes good. Some recipes call for chunks of meat- if you go that route, use something tough and fatty that will braise in the soup. Beef chuck, or veal shoulder are both great choices. Stay away from turkey though- except for the legs, it really doesn’t braise well and you should really save that for the entrée.

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Filed under Jewish, Sephardic, Soup


Presentation is everything, until you eat them

One Rugelah, many rugelach. The suffix lach (pronounced with a guttural h at the end) indicates a Yiddish plural. In the case of these small cream cheese filled cookies, one is never enough. Also a note of clarification for all the people who have fallen in love with the sweet greasy confection offered in the bakeries of Israel- these are different. The Israeli version is parve, meaning it contains no dairy (or for that matter meat) and uses a fair amount of oil and sugar to attain its hyper-palatable state. The down side is that after a few hours the Israeli ones taste like congealed grease. The best way to eat those is on the way home from the market.

These are less filled croissant, and more of a rolled cookie. They keep well and could even be frozen (if you manage to keep them that long). This recipe comes down on my mother’s side of the family. It was scribbled in her grandmother’s copy of the Settlement Cookbook in her own long hand. When my mother operated a bakery in Salt Lake City (yes, Jews in Utah) she sold these by the dozens to Jew and Gentile alike.

When I went to look these up in Joan Nathan’s cookbook she asserted that the cream cheese dough recipe was a product of the marketing department at Philadelphia Cream Cheese. The earliest published version turned up in a cookbook written in 1950 and its provenance was given as coming from the wife of pianist Arthur Rubinstein, Nela.

While all of that may be true, and this recipe is very similar to the one that Joan Nathan offers, it still is a bit of a family heirloom and having a chance to make these with my mother over Thanksgiving was great.

A word of caution, these contain almost nothing that is good for you (well, possibly the nuts) and they turn out to be mildly addictive. I found myself idly snacking on them if I left the cookie tin to close by, or even if I was just wandering through the kitchen.

Recipe after the break

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Dessert, Jewish, Kashrut

Schnecken, really old school snails

Schnecken, snails that every Jew can love

Schnecken, snails that every Jew can love

Schnecken, is a German word for snails. This spiral shaped sweet bread is the grandfather of the pecan roll, the morning bun and even those awful Pillsbury cinnamon biscuits that come in the cardboard tubes. As an aside, according to my brother-in-law, a long serving police officer in the mid-west. A schneck is any sweet baked snack, as in “I went over to the Mister Donut, there’s a box of schnecks in the break room”.

I was leafing through my copy of Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking in America and started reading about schnecken. She described how the Settlement Cookbook revised the recipe over the years as reflection of the gradual assimilation of the dish from the plainer German version made in a cast iron skillet to the nut and cinnamon laden version made in a muffin pan. As someone who grew up in Milwaukee (home of the Settlement Cookbook Co.) I own a few different copies of this book, including a 1931 edition from my New Yorker mother of all things. My curiosity piqued I pulled it off the shelf and after several minutes of hunting through the index (at the front of the book no less) I found a recipe for cold water schnecken. I was confused since the recipe didn’t call for cold water, in fact no water at all.

Instead it called for a heart attack’s worth of eggs, heavy cream and butter along with a cake of yeast. The cold water it turned out was part of the chilling process, of either 3 hours on ice or overnight in cold water. A reference to the lack of home refrigeration in the late 20’s. In addition the slightly cryptic instructions advised me to, “Bake light brown in a moderate oven 350 F. Watch carefully.” Intrigued I knew I had found a project to share.

I decided that I would try to stick to the recipe as much as possible making a few changes in light of changing materials.Yeast now comes dry, not in cakes and the call for 5 egg yolks was evaluated as to the size of those yolks in 1931. Also, I used up all the cream in the house making butter, so I used milk instead. My last thought is that you should line your sheet pan (I use a Silpat), when I was in college I worked as a dishwasher and I remember how many trips through the machine it would take to melt the sugar off the pecan roll pans.

Recipe after the break.

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Filed under Bread, Dessert