Monday, November 24, 2014

Sharing Culture Through Food

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, there is one subject that’s on everyone’s mind – food. If you’re looking for new and delectable additions to your Thanksgiving Day table, or perhaps simply a new way of making an old favorite, then the participants of our Interfaith Living Museum may be able to help you. Each year, fifth grade students from Jewish and Muslim schools in New York City learn about each others' religions and cultures and curate an exhibit that showcases their own family’s traditions. As part of this program, the students also put together a cookbook of their favorite family recipes. From Egypt to Latvia, these dishes represent a diverse array of cherished family traditions:

Goulash (Egypt)
1 lb. of lean ground beef
½ medium onion, finely chopped
½ package of phyllo dough, finely chopped
½ cup of butter
½ cup of milk (any kind will do)
1 egg
Spices (parsley, basil, Italian spices, salt and pepper) – really any variation will do, just be sure to include some salt and pepper
Shredded 3 cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the pan (9x13”) and place half of the phyllo sheets in the pan and set the other half aside. Sauté ground beef and onions until they are cooked through and sprinkle on some spices and drain excess oil. Place beef and onions onto the phyllo sheets in the pan. Cover with the other half of the phyllo sheets that were set aside earlier. Cut into small squares. Mix together butter, milk, and eggs and sprinkle over sheets. Place in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the top becomes golden. Sprinkle on some cheese and let it melt. Eat and enjoy!

“This recipe was given to my dad when he was a kid. When he eats it, it reminds him of his mother. When I went to Egypt, my aunt gave it to me for the first time. Whenever I eat it, it reminds me of my aunts.”

-          Nouraldeen, Al-Ihsan Academy

Moroccan Fish (Morocco)
2 lbs. of white fleshed fish (preferably filets)
10-15 tomatoes, peeled and minced
5 red, yellow, or green peppers
10 cloves of garlic, chopped
2-3 tsps. of cumin, to taste
4 tsps. of paprika, to taste
2 tsps. of turmeric
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ - 1/3 cup of olive oil
1 cup of white wine (optional)

Warm olive oil in a large deep pan with paprika until paprika is brown. Add peppers and garlic until tender for 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes and (optional) white wine, and leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add water to thin sauce as needed. Cover fish with cumin and turmeric and add to sauce to simmer 20-30 minutes uncovered. Add salt and pepper. Eat with quinoa or rice!

“My great-aunt was Moroccan, and so I am part Moroccan. Every Shabbat that my family hosts guests we make this recipe.”

-          Elan, Kinneret Day School

Mandel Broidt
3 eggs
1 tsp. of baking powder
1 cup of sugar
1/3 finely chopped nuts (optional)
1 cup of vegetable oil
½ package of chocolate chips
3 cups of flour
Cinnamon and sugar

Cream the eggs, sugar, and oil. Add flour and baking powder. Add nuts and chocolate chips. Dough will be sticky. Flour your hands and form into four loaves. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 350 degrees until barley brown (roughly 20 minutes). Cook very slightly, and slice on diagonal, turning pieces onto their sides. Cool oven to 325 degrees and return pans to oven and bake again until light brown and crispy (roughly 15 minutes).

“My savta (grandmother) was at her friend’s house in St. Louis and they served these Mandel Broidt. She asked for the recipe and has been making it ever since. That was about 40 years ago. She passed it down to everyone in the family. We have it a lot when we all get together and it is special to everyone.”

-    Bella, Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan

Bassboussa (Algeria)
1 cup of semolina
2 cups of shredded coconut
½ cup of sugar
1 cup of plain yogurt
1 cup of melted butter
½ tsp. of baking powder
½ tsp. of vanilla powder
Warm honey

Mix all of the dry ingredients (semolina, shredded coconut, sugar, baking powder, vanilla powder). Add all the liquids (plain yogurt and melted butter). Pour that in a medium sized tray (10”). Put it in the oven. Preheat oven up to 300 degrees. Keep it in the oven for about 30 minutes. Bake it until you see the top has browned. Remove from oven and pour the warm honey. You can decorate it or make it flavorful by adding any nuts you like or some shredded coconut.

“This recipe (Bassboussa) was invented by the Turkish people when they were in Algeria in the 1800s. They make Bassboussa for special occasions like holidays. This recipe spread throughout the country of Algeria and it soon became very popular. Usually many Algerians like to enjoy it with refreshments, especially coffee and tea.”

-          Imen, Al-Ihsan Academy

For more information on the Interfaith Living Museum and to learn how you can support this important work on December 2, Giving Tuesday, please visit

Photo by Melanie Einzig.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Help Us Give Muslim and Jewish Fifth Graders Something to Celebrate on Giving Tuesday

This blog is from Amanda, our Manager of Curriculum and Teacher Programs.

Last April, in a bowling alley in Queens, two 5th graders exchanged email addresses written on napkins.  It doesn’t sound like an extraordinary event. Many kids across the country stay in touch with their friends via email. But a seemingly ordinary event like this one became less so: one of these students was Muslim, and one was Jewish. They go to religious schools in different neighborhoods. It is very likely the two might not have ever met, but both were participants in our Interfaith Living Museum program.

The Interfaith Living Museum program brings together 80 fifth graders from four schools, two Jewish (Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan and Kinneret Day School) and two Muslim (Al-Ihsan Academy and Islamic Leadership School). Over the course of a semester, the students work together to learn about how artifacts can teach us about heritage and bring in artifacts from their own homes to teach each other. They visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a mosque, a synagogue, and each other’s schools. To help students get to know each other better, we also have a Social Day, in which the students get the opportunity to bowl, eat pizza, and get to know each other in a less formal environment. The program culminates in an exhibition of their artifacts, arranged thematically (“How We Pray,” “Food and Faith,” etc.). We hope that they learn more about their own backgrounds, as well as learn more about each other and find that despite differences, there are many similarities.

And we also hope that, as a result of the time spent together, friendships like these form. More rewarding than seeing students articulate lessons learned about their heritage are the lessons learned about each other, most importantly that it is possible, despite the differences they perceive, to form friendships and find common ground. Without the Interfaith Living Museum, these students would not have had the opportunity to meet and form these friendships.

There is no cost to the schools to participate in this important program. In order to continue providing funding, the Museum is asking for donations to help keep the program free for participants. We hope that you will join us in supporting the Interfaith Living Museum on December 2, Giving Tuesday. For more information, please visit

Photo by Melanie Einzig

Monday, November 3, 2014

Recipe from Janna Gur's new book: Jewish Soul Food

It's no secret that one of our favorite things to do is to share recipes. This one, by Janna Gur, is perfect for a chilly November night. Her anticipated new book is Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh and she'll be at the Museum on Sunday November 23 at 2:30 p.m. to chat about it.

PLAU B’JEEJ | Chicken with Almonds and Raisins over Red Rice (Iraqi)

First the chicken is cooked in water, tomato paste, and spices, then the spiced cooking liquid is used to make delicious red rice. Clever, huh? And there is more: While the rice is cooking, the chicken is shredded; slowly sautéed with onions, almonds, and raisins; and then served over the rice. Grandma’s cooking at its best! Save any leftover red rice—it makes a delicious side for beef, chicken, and fish dishes.

Serves 4 to 6
4 chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks)
5 cups water
7 ounces (200 g) tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Pinch of hot paprika or cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cups long-grain white rice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large onions, thinly sliced
Pinch of hot paprika or ground turmeric (optional)
1 teaspoon baharat spice mix (see recipe below or store-bought)
½ cup blanched almonds (halved or slivered)
½ cup golden raisins
For garnish (optional)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
¹⁄³ cup blanched almonds (halved or slivered)

1. Place the chicken legs in a medium saucepan. Mix the water, tomato paste, cumin, paprika, and cayenne (if using) in a bowl. Pour over the chicken. Par­tially cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 1 hour over low heat until the chicken is tender. Toward the end of cooking, taste and season with salt.
2. While the chicken is cooking, soak the rice in water for 15 minutes. Rinse in cold water several times until the water runs clear. Drain in a colander.
3. Remove the cooked chicken to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Measure 3½ cups of hot cooking liquid and return it to the saucepan. Add 1 heaping teaspoon salt. Add the rice and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover tightly, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Open the lid, fluff the rice with a fork, cover, and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. While the rice is cooking, heat the vegetable oil in a large shallow sauce-pan. Add the sliced onions and sauté over medium-low heat until soft and golden, at least 10 minutes. Season with salt, a dash of turmeric (if using), and the baharat.
5. When the chicken is cooled enough to be handled with bare hands, remove and discard the skin and the bones. Shred the meat into small pieces and add to the onions. Add the almonds and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes over medium heat. Add the raisins and sauté for another minute.
6. Prepare the garnish (if using) Heat the vegetable oil in a small frying pan and toss the almonds until golden and crisp. To serve, mound the chicken and onion mixture over the rice and garnish with toasted almonds.

Homemade Baharat
Baharat spice mix is available at Middle Eastern grocery stores, specialty markets, and online. You can also make your own. Grinding whole spices is ideal, but preground ones are fine, too.
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
teaspoons ground allspice
teaspoons ground nutmeg

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Keep in a cool, dark place in an airtight jar. Use for meatballs, stuffed vegetables, and meat-filled pastries.  

Excerpted from JEWISH SOUL FOOD by Janna Gur. Copyright © 2014 by Janna Gur. Excerpted by permission of Schocken, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Cover photo by Daniel Lailah.