Like any cultural group worth its salt, Jews communicate love through cooking. And while many epically outstanding women who also happen to be loving Jewish grandmothers do not cook (see: Ruth Bader Ginsburg), I think we can all agree that when they do, you want a seat at that table. (RBG – for the record – I’ll very happily also sit on your bench!)
Shannon Sarna, author of “The Modern Jewish Baker” and editor-in-chief of The Nosher (www.thenosher.com) knows it’s no coincidence that Jewish grandmothers pour so much love into their food: “Jewish recipes are not just about passing down food; they’re also about passing down the tradition.”
As a mother of young children and aspiring Jewish grandmother herself, she explained that “food transcends age and connects generations. It’s the common story we can pass down in the kitchen and on the table.”
In my line of work with seniors, I often have the privilege of learning about my clients’ favorite family recipes. Sometimes I do the chopping and they do the stirring. Sometimes they just do the talking and I just do the listening. But the recipes are always the linchpin. Some are timeless. Others are dated. Many are universal crowd-pleasers. A few are ‘acquired tastes.” But all tell a story. And in a very elemental way, they pass the legacy of love from generation to generation. Here are a few I hope make you smile.
(Note: the love in these recipes may contain trace amounts of guilt.)
“My family ate this many times over the years, and everyone loves it.”
– Iris Goldstein, daughter of Goldie Brass (z”l) and grandmother to Cynthia.
6-8 pieces chicken
1 cup apricot jam
1 bottle Wishbone Russian dressing (must use this one, it is red, it’s not like the creamy orange-looking ones)
1 envelope of Lipton’s powdered onion soup mix
Approximately 1/2 cup of water
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Stir all ingredients together until well combined.
Completely coat chicken pieces with mixture.
Place in pan skin side down for about 40 minutes.
Turn so skin side is up, cook for about another 40 minutes.
Use broiler to brown skin if you want to, but watch carefully if you do.
Mehshi Kusa Hamod with Hashu, and Beida bi’lemouneh
(Syrian Stuffed Zucchini with Lemon Sauce)
“My Sito was born in Atlantic City in 1922, the youngest of six children of parents who emigrated from Aleppo and had children in Syria, Mexico, New Orleans and Atlantic City. They summered in Kennebunkport Maine. She raised two boys with her husband, Menesh, in Midwood, Brooklyn and Deal, New Jersey. She has nine great-grandchildren.”
– Michelle Abbani Greenspan, granddaughter of Ruth Abbani, and mother to Emmy.
Mehshi Kusa Hamod with Hashu
Slice off smaller end of 6-8 zucchini and scrape skin off.
Hollow out insides until soft.
Put holes in other end with fork to let steam out.
Wash and drain.
Stuff with Hashu (1 pound chopped beef, salt, pepper, water, allspice, cinnamon, approximately 1 cup uncooked rice. Sito uses Uncle Ben’s Parboiled White Rice).
Lay stuffed zucchini in pot with leftover hashu in tinfoil on top.
Pour sauce over (3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 cup tamarind sauce, 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 can tomato sauce).
Cover with unbreakable plate and cover with lid with opening for steam.
Cook on stovetop with high flame until boiling.
Lower to simmer and fully cover. Simmer for one hour.
Boil 2 cups of water with 2 tablespoons chicken broth powder.
Whisk 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 eggs, kosher salt.
Mix 2 tablespoons flour with 2 tablespoons cold water.
Take water/broth off stove.
Whisk in egg mixture.
Put back on stove and mix in flour mixture.
Strain and pour into bowl
Sprinkle cinnamon on top to finish
Serve as a sauce to top off the dish.
Hungarian Sweet Noodle Pudding
“This was on every holiday table. If my mother made this kugel, it was yontuv.”
– Gina Brod-Vinick, daughter of Marion Brod (z”l) and grandmother to many blessings.
1 pound fine egg noodles
9 eggs, separated
10 ounces finely chopped walnuts
2/3 cup sugar
Mix yolks and 1/3 cup sugar into noodles.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Oil pan, and heat pan in the oven for at least 10 minutes.
Beat egg whites until stiff.
Add nuts and 1/3 cup sugar.
Layer noodle mixture, then nut mixture. Top with raisins.
Bake on bottom rack for 25 minutes.
(Ethiopian Spiced Red Lentils)
“My family moved to Israel from Ethiopia when I was 1. This was my grandmother’s recipe. She taught it to my mother by memory, as neither of them read or wrote.
My mother taught it to my oldest sister, Sarit, who switched it from Amharic to Hebrew when she wrote it down – the first time it had ever been written down after generations of cooking it. My grandmother passed away last year, so now it’s especially important to remember.”
– Fasika Zoudo, granddaughter of Intfo Kabada (z”l) who left behind many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
4 tablespoons niter kibbeh (Ethiopian ghee/ butter)
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Roma tomato, finely chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons bebere (Ethiopian spice mix)
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
2 1/2 cups broth
1 teaspoon salt
Melt 3 tablespoons of the niter kibbeh in a medium pot.
Add onions and cook for 10 minutes until golden brown.
Add garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste and 1 tablespoon of the berbere and cook for 5 minutes.
Add broth and salt, bring it to a boil, reduce heat to low.
Cover and simmer the lentils, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes (adding more broth if needed) or until the lentils are soft.
Stir in the remaining tablespoon of niter kibbeh and berbere.
Simmer for a couple more minutes.
Add salt to taste.
Serve with injera (Ethiopian flatbread).
Naomi Fink Cotrone runs the Right at Home of Rhode Island agency, which provides care to elderly and disabled adults throughout Rhode Island.
As an Ashkenazi Jew, she just learned the term “ashko-normative”, and therefore was proud to include 2 non-Ashkenazi recipes in this grouping. She hopes that one day, her grandchildren make her garlic and tomato spaghetti squash recipe.