History on the menu
Exploring Jewish diversity through food
Dulce de Manzana (Apple Preserves)
September 1, 2010
Teiglach came along with Tina Wasserman when she moved to Dallas in the 1980s. Wasserman, a cooking teacher and the food columnist for Reform Judaism magazine, didn’t literally transport clumps of the sticky pastries, but among her most cherished possessions, she packed her recipe for the traditional Rosh Hashana sweet hailing from Lithuania. “No one had seen it down here,” said Wasserman, the author of Entree to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora (URJ Press, 2010), until she served the dessert to her new friends.
She then introduced the recipe in cooking classes. Before long, teiglach became part of the Jewish culinary scene in Dallas.
The incident is typical of how Jewish foods have traveled around the world, says Wasserman, whose goal in writing her cookbook was to educate about Jewish culture while providing sensational recipes that tell the story of Jewish history.
She began assembling recipes for the book with a question: What makes a food Jewish from a historical viewpoint? “I tried to put the foods we love into a context,” Wasserman said, explaining that she wanted to breathe life into Jewish culinary history.
Each recipe includes the story of its origins, when and why it was eaten, and who cherished it enough to bring the preparation method to a new part of the world.
While Ashkenazim dip apples in honey to connote sweetness in the New Year, Turkish Jews convey the same wishes by partaking in Dulce de Manzana, sweet apple preserves infused with rose water, the signature flavor of many Sephardic pastries.
Dulce de Manzana is the first of 20 dairy foods Wasserman serves at the bagels and lox buffet she and her husband host at their home each Rosh Hashana following the Tashlich ceremony when Jews, often in large groups, cast away their sins from the previous year by throwing small pieces of bread into a natural body of flowing water such as a river, lake or ocean.
“I’m all about connecting to the Jewish community at large,” said Wasserman, whose website —www.cookingandmore.com — creates a community around food. “We’re a shrinking population who used to live everywhere in the world.”
Dulce de Manzana (Apple Preserves)
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2 pounds Jonagold, Gala, or Delicious apples
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp. rose water or 1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Place sugar and water in a three-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. While the mixture is heating, peel apples and grate by hand with coarse grater. Immediately add apples to the hot sugar syrup.
Reduce temperature to medium and cook for 30-45 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is quite thick. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
While mixture is cooking, toast the almonds in a 350-degree oven for four minutes or until lightly golden; set aside.
When mixture is thickened (it will get thicker when it cools), add rose water or vanilla. Place in open container until cool. The toasted almonds may be added to the mixture at this time or sprinkled on top as a garnish just before serving. Refrigerate until serving.
Yield: Three to four cups
Sweet Potato-Pumpkin Cazuela
This casserole from Puerto Rico can also be made with carrots, a traditional Rosh Hashana vegetable that symbolizes sweetness in the New Year.
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or pareve margarine
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup unsweetened canned coconut milk
1 15-ounce can unflavored pumpkin puree or one pound fresh carrots, cleaned, sliced, and steamed until tender
1 29-ounce can yams in light syrup, drained and mashed
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
2-inch piece of stick cinnamon, broken into pieces
1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
3 whole cloves
Place butter or margarine in a two-quart glass bowl and microwave for 45 seconds.
Whisk sugars, flour, and salt into butter. Add coconut milk and whisk until blended. Add eggs and combine.
Add pumpkin puree or carrots and mashed yams; whisk into a smooth batter.
Combine water with spices in a small glass. Microwave on high for one and a half minutes. Let mixture steep for five minutes. Strain spiced water through a fine mesh strainer into the sweet potato mixture and stir.
Grease a two-quart casserole and pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Bake covered in a preheated 350-degree oven for one hour. Serve immediately.
Yield: Eight to 10 servings
Syrian Eggplant with Pomegranate Molasses
1 medium eggplant, about 1 1/2 pounds
2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses
2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 tsp. dried crushed red pepper flakes
3-4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Pomegranate seeds for garnish, optional
Roast eggplant over a grill until all sides are charred and the eggplant is soft and deflated. Remove to a colander, slit open on one side from stem to bottom. Let the juices run out for 10 minutes, or until it is cool enough to handle. Remove skin and stem and discard.
Place eggplant pulp in a bowl, cut in all directions with a knife and fork, and continue to mix with the fork, until no long strings of eggplant remain.
Add pomegranate molasses, garlic, and red pepper flakes and combine thoroughly.
Slowly add oil as you whip mixture with a fork until a smooth spread is formed. Season with salt to taste.
Spread mixture on a nine-inch plate and make a slight well in the center. Drizzle with a little more olive oil, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, if desired. Serve with pita points or crackers.
Yield: Four servings