In the preface of Jewish Soul Food, author Carol Ungar writes, “Even more than in the synagogue, Jewish life takes place around the dining table.”
Ungar, a freelance writer and cookbook author who lives in Israel, thought she knew all the symbolic foods until she started to write a food blog. Raised on her mother’s traditional dishes that she knew from her Hungarian childhood, Ungar eventually realized there was a deep link between Jewish foods and Jewish beliefs. Jewish Soul Food: Traditional Fare and what it Means (Brandeis University Press) is truly a wonderful read, filled with delightful, home-style recipes for Shabbat and the Jewish holiday kitchen.
Tzimmes is eaten at the New Year to attract prosperity. This recipe has been in Ungar’s family for generations. It’s traditional to serve it through the entire High Holiday period – and it’s important to use only fresh carrots for this, never frozen or canned.
o 12 medium-size carrots
o 2 heaping tbsp. all-purpose flour
o 1/4 cup vegetable oil
o 1/3 to 1/2 cup honey
o 1/2 cup water
Peel carrots and hand slice them into 1/4-in. rounds. Don’t use a food processor or the slices will be too limp.
Cook and stir flour and oil in saucepan over a low flame until mixture forms a thick brown paste (roux). Add carrots and gradually drizzle in up to 1/2 cup honey and the 1/2 cup water. Cover. Simmer until carrots are tender and sweet (20-30 minutes).
Serve immediately, alongside meat or poultry. You can freeze this, but the carrots will get a bit mushy. Serves 6 to 8.
When Ungar’s dear friend Sylvia boasted of her famous “unstuffed cabbage,” Carol secretly smirked. Unstuffed cabbage? It seemed like such a violation, but the dish turned out to be tasty and a snap to make. Meat eating is traditional on Sukkot. Unstuffed cabbage, which is heavy on the vegetables, is a lighter way to eat meat.
1 cup water
o 4 cups shredded white cabbage
o 2 lb. (1 kg) ground meat (can be a mixture of beef and turkey)
o 1 large egg
o 1/2 cup tomato sauce
o 1/4 cup matzah meal
o 1/2 tsp. paprika
o 1/2 tsp. garlic powder or 1 fresh clove garlic, crushed
o 1/8 tsp. black pepper
o 2 cups tomato sauce
o 2 tbsp. lemon juice, or to taste
o 3 tbsp. (packed) brown sugar, or to taste
o 1 tbsp. onion soup mix
o 1 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
o 1 tbsp. teriyaki sauce
o pinch of ground ginger
Bring water to a boil in a 5-quart Dutch oven and add shredded cabbage. Let cabbage steam, covered, for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine ground meat, matzah meal, egg and spices into a mixture that holds together. Using the palm of your hand, form balls that are 1 in. in diameter. You will have about 24 meatballs.
Place meatballs on top of cabbage. Re-cover and continue to cook on a low flame while you combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl. Pour over meatballs and cook, covered, for 1 hour.
Adjust seasonings to taste before serving over rice, quinoa, mashed potatoes or pasta. This freezes well. Serves 6 to 8 as a main course and twice that as a starter.
Mandelbrot (literally “almond bread” or Jewish biscotti) is an Old Country favourite brought over to the New World and passed on through the centuries – and for good reason. This recipe is love. When Ungar recently made a batch for a friend’s son bar mitzvah, neighbours besieged her begging for the recipe. So here it is, adapted from The Kosher Palette, by Susie Fishbein and Sandra E. Blank. Because you don’t bake the mandelbrot twice, this is a slightly unconventional but nonetheless very tasty recipe. It’s so easy that older kids can make it on their own.
o 2 large eggs
o 1/2 cup vegetable oil
o 1 tsp. vanilla extract
o 2 cups flour (whole-wheat pastry flour is just fine)
o 1 cup granulated sugar
o 1 tsp. baking powder
o 1 tsp. cinnamon
o 1/4 tsp. salt
o 1/2 cup slivered almonds
o 1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries, or chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350. Beat eggs, oil and vanilla in a large bowl, then stir in dry ingredients, almonds, and raisins, dried cranberries or chocolate chips. Mix until dough forms a ball. Divide dough in half and place each half on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using your hands, shape each piece into a log 12 in. long and 2 in. wide. Bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove from oven. Cool slightly. Cut, using a sharp serrated knife, into 1/2-inch slices. For a crunchier mandelbrot, return to turned off oven for 15 minutes after slicing. Cool on rack. Freezes beautifully. Makes about 24 pieces.