3 Jewish Dishes to Cook in the New Year
I adore the age in which we live! Yes, I know, the world is a mess, no one agrees about government, and the weather is bizarre. Nonetheless, we have the internet and that means access to endless recipes – except the one for Grandma’s mushroom barley soup with flanken, which she didn’t write down before she died many years ago.
Recently, during one of my recipe-search binges, I came across this list of 25 Classic Jewish Foods Everyone Should Learn to Cook. Always on the lookout for new dishes, I’ve decided to try these three (and perhaps some other) recipes in the New Year.
I saw burekas all over Israel on my last visit there. These delicious-looking stuffed pastries are sold as street food and in bakeries, served in coffee shops, and made at home. The word “bureka” is Ladino (a hybrid language of Spanish and Hebrew influenced by the Turkish, Greek and Italian tongues) for “borek” or “burek,” as the pastries are known in Turkey and the Balkans. The pastry itself was brought to Israel by the Sephardim (Spanish Jews) who were expelled from Spain in 1492. The crust, similar to an empanada, is made from a simple, hand-kneaded dough. It is stuffed with fillings -- spinach, cheese, mushrooms, eggplant and/or meat – and then baked.
This recipe comes from a friend who is of Israeli and Turkish background. He made these burekas for me once and they were delicious!
- 3 cups of flour, plus more for rolling
- 7 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup of sour cream
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/3 cup shredded feta cheese
- ½ egg
- Handful of spinach or mangold leaves (beet leaf)
- Optional: mushrooms, potatoes, eggplants, meat
- ½ egg
- za'atar (found in Middle Eastern cooking stores) or sesame
Heat the oven to 425°F. Knead the dough in a bowl to a uniform texture. Mix the filling in a separate bowl. Create flat circles of dough (7-8 cm). Put a teaspoon of filling in the middle and close tightly with a fork. Brush the burekas with egg and garnish with the za'atar. Bake in the oven for 20-25 min. until puffed and browned.
2. Matzah Brei
Matzah brei (rhymes with fry) is a delicious dish with which I was unfamiliar until adulthood.
The German word “brei” refers to a porridge-like mush. In Yiddish, this word now means “fry” and indeed, matzah brei, a classic Passover dish among Ashkenazi Jews (those from central and eastern Europe), is made by pan frying matzah that has been moistened with water and then mixed with beaten eggs.
According to the late Gil Marks, noted food writer and historian, in Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, matzah brei originated in North America because of the influx of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Different versions of matzah brei reflect the area of Europe from which immigrants came. Recipes from Poland or Hungary often produce a sweet matzah brei, flavored with honey or cinnamon. Savory matzah brei often comes from German, Lithuanian, and even Russian recipes. Try this matzah brei recipe.
Cholent, a hearty stew, is uniquely Jewish fare. The traditional prohibition of kindling fire on Shabbat led Jewish cooks to experiment with ways to combine meat, grains, and vegetables in heavy pots that could simmer slowly overnight in a low-heat oven, so families could enjoy a hot Shabbat meal the next day. The dish seems to have originated in the Middle East, spreading with the Jewish people to wherever they migrated and picking up the spices and flavors of their surroundings, eventually creating regional versions of this wonderful stew.
The word “cholent” itself appears to derive from medieval French, a combination of chault (hot) and lent (slow). In America, cholent refers to the stew made with meat, potatoes, barley, and beans that was favored by Eastern European Jews. Often accompanied by kishke (Yiddish for “intestine”), a flour‑and‑onion stuffed sausage, and various kneidlach or dumplings, it is heavy and very filling. Try this recipe for classic cholent.
Regional varieties of cholent are endless: Sephardim make hamin using chicken and eggs; Moroccan dafina or skhina comprises meat, barley, chickpeas, vegetables, and spices, and varies from household to household; and in France, there is cassoulet, which often includes goose, sausage, and beans slow cooked in plenty of goose fat. Other varieties include Bukharan sweet and sour osh savo and Iraqi tabeet or tbit, an entire chicken stuffed with rice, herbs, and seasonings.
As we enter a new secular year, may your home be full of good cooking, joy, love, and a wonderful variety of Jewish foods!
If you like to cook, eat, and talk about food, try "The Jewish Dish!" Sign up for ReformJudaism.org’s monthly food email for recipes, fun food facts, holiday tidbits, and more -- all with a Jewish twist. Delish!