Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jewsby Poopa Dweck, Michael J. Cohen, Michael J. Cohen
When the Aleppian Jewish community migrated from the ancient city of Aleppo in historic Syria and settled in New York and Latin American cities in the early 20th century, it brought its rich cuisine and vibrant culture. Most Syrian recipes and traditions, however, were not written down and existed only in the minds of older generations. Poopa Dweck, a first… See more details below
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When the Aleppian Jewish community migrated from the ancient city of Aleppo in historic Syria and settled in New York and Latin American cities in the early 20th century, it brought its rich cuisine and vibrant culture. Most Syrian recipes and traditions, however, were not written down and existed only in the minds of older generations. Poopa Dweck, a first generation Syrian–Jewish American, has devoted much of her life to preserving and celebrating her community's centuries–old legacy.
Dweck relates the history and culture of her community through its extraordinary cuisine, offering more than 180 exciting ethnic recipes with tantalizing photos and describing the unique customs that the Aleppian Jewish community observes during holidays and lifecycle events. Among the irresistible recipes are:
•Bazargan–Tangy Tamarind Bulgur Salad
•Shurbat Addes–Hearty Red Lentil Soup with Garlic and Coriander
•Kibbeh–Stuffed Syrian Meatballs with Ground Rice
•Samak b'Batata–Baked Middle Eastern Whole Fish with Potatoes
•Sambousak–Buttery Cheese–Filled Sesame Pastries
•Eras bi'Ajweh–Date–Filled Crescents
•Chai Na'na–Refreshing Mint Tea
Like mainstream Middle Eastern cuisines, Aleppian Jewish dishes are alive with flavor and healthful ingredients–featuring whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and olive oil–but with their own distinct cultural influences. In Aromas of Aleppo, cooks will discover the best of Poopa Dweck's recipes, which gracefully combine Mediterranean and Levantine influences, and range from small delights (or maza) to daily meals and regal holiday feasts–such as the twelve–course Passover seder.
Dweck is one of the coauthors of a beloved series of cookbooks called Deal Delights, with traditional Aleppian Jewish recipes (Deal, NJ, is one of the largest communities, along with Brooklyn, of Aleppian Jews in the United States). Her big, impressive new book presents the social and culinary history of the Syrian Jews, along with close to 200 recipes. Obviously a labor of love, it was written to help preserve the foods and traditions of this venerable community (Dweck notes that the last Jew left Aleppo in 1987; the approximately 100,000 Jews of Aleppian descent who live in the United States, Central and Latin America, and Israel today represent "the largest Sephardic community in the Diaspora"). She includes both simple, everyday recipes and more elaborate dishes for the holidays and other celebrations; headnotes provide context and information on ingredients and techniques. There are also dozens of color photographs of the recipes and of Dweck's family and friends cooking and eating together, as well as period photographs of Aleppo at the turn of the century. A "Syrian Guidebook to Jewish Holidays and Life-Cycle Events" and several glossaries conclude the book. Highly recommended.
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Aromas of Aleppo
The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews
Artichoke Hearts in Olive Oil and Lemon Marinade
Serves 8 to 10
Freshly marinated artichokes hearts are much more flavorful than the store-bought varieties. The process is rewarding and not too difficult.
When shopping for artichokes, look for ones with bracts that are tightly closed or only slightly open. Artichokes should be firm and fresh looking, with no brown or soft spots. They should also feel heavy. If the underside of an artichoke stem has small holes, do not buy it, as it may have worm damage. Squeeze it—if it sounds squeaky, it is okay. To store, place dry artichokes in a plastic bag and refrigerate for no more than 5 days.
¼ cup lemon juice concentrate mixed with 4 cups water for acidulated water
6 fresh artichokes
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (5 to 6 lemons)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Put the acidulated water near the work area and trim the artichokes. Remove the tough bracts (outer leaves), cut the artichokes in half lengthwise, and remove the hairy inner chokes, trimming the leaves close to the hearts.
2. Cut the artichoke hearts into quarters, or into sixths if they are large. After each one is cut, place it in the acidulated water, so it will not discolor.
3. When all the artichoke hearts have been prepared, remove them from the bowl and arrange them in a large glass jar.
4. Combine the olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and salt in a small glassbowl. Mix well.
5. Pour the lemon-oil marinade over the artichoke hearts, adding more oil if necessary to cover them completely. Seal the jar tightly and leave at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, rotating the jar a few times each day. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Serve the artichokes on a tray with a small amount of the brine.
Baby Eggplants Pickled in Aleppian Brine
Makes 12 to 15 pickles (1 ½ gallons)
The intriguing beauty of the eggplant—from its curvy, pear shape to its shiny, smooth skin—is indisputable. Eggplants come in a variety of sizes (from tiny to large), shapes (from oval to spherical), and colors (deep purple, pale violet, white, or green). They are grown in many places, including the United States, Italy, China, Japan, India, and Thailand. The daintier varieties, such as Japanese eggplants, tend to have a mild flavor and fewer seeds than the typical large variety. For this recipe, it is essential to start off with tiny, firm, farm-fresh eggplants; their calyxes (the leafy crowns) should be bright green. When the pickled eggplants are cut open, they are usually slightly pink at their core.
1 dozen baby eggplants, stems trimmed, leaving leafy crowns intact
2 ribs celery, chopped into 2-inch pieces
4 unpeeled garlic cloves, halved
½ cup white vinegar
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ cup kosher salt
1. Pierce each eggplant with a fork in two places. In a large pot, bring 3 cups water to a boil over high heat. Carefully put the eggplants in the boiling water and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool.
2. To make the brine, combine 3 cups water, celery, garlic, vinegar, Aleppo pepper, and salt in a large bowl.
3. Put the eggplants into several jars. Pour the brine over the eggplants, filling each jar to the brim. Cover tightly (see step 2, page 69). The pickles will be ready in 3 to 4 days and will last 2 months in the refrigerator.Aromas of Aleppo
The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews. Copyright © by Poopa Dweck. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Meet the Author
Poopa Dweck is an expert on Aleppian Jewish cookery and the creator of Deal Delights cookbooks. A highly active community leader, she frequently lectures and performs cooking demonstrations. She is also the founder of the Jesse Dweck City Learning Center and Daughters of Sarah and the cofounder of the Sephardic Women’s Organization. Dweck lives in Deal, New Jersey, with her husband, and has five children.
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