The Sephardic Kitchen: The Healthy Food and Rich Culture of the Mediterranean Jews
Light, healthy and robust -- these are the outstanding qualities of the summery, sun-splashed cooking of the Sephardic Jews, which Rabbi Robert Sternberg offers in this enlightening book about an under-explored aspect of the increasingly popular Mediterranean cooking.
Expelled from Spain during the Inquisition, the Sephardic Jews scattered to all corners of the Mediterranean. Their strong traditions and varied cultural experience combined with the fertile climate in which they settled, created one of the most flavorful and distinctive cuisines in the world. It is a melding of delicious flavors from all around the warm salt waters of the Mediterranean -- Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Algeria, Greece, Morocco, Israel and the remains of the Ottoman Empire.
In each distant place the Sephardic Jews cooked inventive and delightful meals whose flavor comes more from herbs and spices than from fat. The core ingredients -- fresh fruits, spices, olives, nuts, tomatoes, fennel, eggs and seafood -- are as tasty as they are versatile.
The tempting recipes in this book include Canton de Sardellas, a delicious anchovy salad from Portugal, Sopa de Spinaca y Lentijas, a spicy and delicate soup from Macedonia, Sopada con Bamias, a hot and sweet braised beef with okra from Egypt, and the incomparable Los Site Kilos -- Bread of the Seven Heavens -- whose layers represent the connection between this world and the next.
Alongside his recipes Rabbi Sternberg relates the rich history and lore of the Sephardic Jews, to whom hospitality is one of the most important virtues. "When visiting the home of a Jew from a Mediterranean country, one is usually greeted with an apology from the host or hostess for the poor and limited quality of the food being served," says Rabbi Sternberg. "The apology is generally followed by a lavish buffet with a dazzling array of mouthwatering appetizers and salads." Rabbi Sternberg also explains Jewish Holiday traditions and culinary celebrations, from Sabbath dinners to observation of the High Holy Days.
Generously illustrated, easy to follow, and sprinkled with Sephardic folktales, Rabbi Sternberg's book is certain to become the mainstay in the kitchens of people who like Mediterranean cooking, lighter eating and just plain good food.
Rabbi Sternberg is the executive director of the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center in St. Louis, Missouri. He is also the author of Yiddish Cuisine.