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.

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