The World of Jewish Cooking: More Than 500 Traditional Recipes from Alsace to Yemen

The World of Jewish Cooking: More Than 500 Traditional Recipes from Alsace to Yemen

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by Gil Marks

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A Comprehensive and Beautiful Treasury of Jewish Cooking
There is a whole world of Jewish cooking beyond chopped liver and gefilte fish. Scattered across the globe, there are many distinctive, delicious, and authentic Jewish cuisines to be savored. Gil Marks, a rabbi, gourmet chef, and authority on Jewish food history and lore, guides us through this


A Comprehensive and Beautiful Treasury of Jewish Cooking
There is a whole world of Jewish cooking beyond chopped liver and gefilte fish. Scattered across the globe, there are many distinctive, delicious, and authentic Jewish cuisines to be savored. Gil Marks, a rabbi, gourmet chef, and authority on Jewish food history and lore, guides us through this largely undiscovered world. He delights and enlightens with traditional recipes from Italian, Yemenite, Ethiopian, Indian, Eastern European, German, Hungarian, Georgian, Alsatian, and Middle Eastern Jewry; culinary conversations with contemporary members of these ancient and medieval communities; and fascinating commentary on Jewish food and Jewish history.
The World of Jewish Cooking offers an astonishing array of delicacies, including: Pastilla (Moroccan "Pigeon" Pie)
Kik Wot (Ethiopian Split Peas Stew)
Muez con Almendrada (Moroccan Almond-Walnut Confection)
Khachapuri (Georgian Cheese Bread)
Yakhnat (Persian Lamb Stew)
Murgi Kari (Calcutta Chicken Curry)
Meggy Leves (Hungarian Cherry Soup)
Testine di Spinaci (Italian Spinach Stalks)
Hraimeh (Northwest African Red Fish)
Kubba (Iraqi Stuffed Dumplings)
Marunchinos (Sephardic Almond Macaroons)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Miriam Morgan San Francisco Chronicle A must for those who want to explore a fascinating culinary world.

Faye Levy author of Faye Levy's International Jewish Cookbook The World of Jewish Cooking makes delectable reading. Each recipe comes with a fascinating history evoking the role of the dish in Jewish life at a particular time or place. There's a wealth of enticing dishes....

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Developed by Jews dispersed around the globe, Jewish cuisines have been shaped by both adopted cultures and by the laws of kosher. This excellent overview contains such diverse recipes as those for the Ashkenazic classic Roast Chicken and Ethiopian Chicken Stew with hard-boiled eggs. There are kugels galore (Alsatian Pear and Prune Kugel; Ashkenazic Potato Pudding; Indian Rice Pudding), but also Yemenite Spicy Poached Fish and Cochin Fish Soup from the Jews of the Malabar Coast. Marks (a rabbi and former editor of Kosher Gourmet magazine) provides tasty nuggets of intriguing information as well. It is no surprise to find a treatise on bagels (which Marks insists were not named after a Polish prince's stirrups as is often claimed) in a Jewish cookbook, but who knew that a Jewish fish seller first transformed Sephardic Pan-Fried Fish Fillets into fish and chips, or that a Minneapolis Hadassah chapter was behind the introduction of the bundt pan to the U.S.? Plentiful archival photographs and illustrations (showing everything from a Jewish family in Burma in 1938 to a Jewish poultry inspector in 19th-century France) add to the encyclopedic feel of this sweeping effort. (Sept.)
Library Journal
The two major divisions of the Jewish community are the Ashkenazim, whose ancestors are from eastern Europe, and the Sephardim, originally from the Iberian Peninsula. Marks, a rabbi and former editor of Kosher Gourmet, includes recipes from both communities in The World of Jewish Cooking, while Rabbi Sternberg, the author of Yiddish Cuisine (Jason Aronson, 1993), focuses on the cooking of Sephardic Jews in The Sephardic Kitchen. Marks's recipes come from Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa; Sternberg's from all the countries of the Mediterranean, with a few places a bit farther afield. Both authors include a great deal of cultural and religious background: Sternberg starts with a longer introductory section that covers social customs, ingredients, and kosher laws and also scatters folktales throughout his text, while Marks includes many boxes on ingredients and other topics. Although both books are informed and well written, The Sephardic Kitchen is the more readable and engaging: Marks offers more history and more detail, but his style is drier than Sternberg's. Despite some overlap, however, the books are different enough that both are recommended.

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Read an Excerpt


Every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labors, it is a gift of God.

Ecclesiastes 3:13

Most ancient cultures served all the dishes of a meal at one time, a practice continued today throughout much of Asia. It was the Romans who first introduced the idea of a set order to meals as well as serving small portions of foods at the beginning of the meal to stimulate the appetite and aid in digestion. Ashkenazim follow the Roman-German practice of serving a first course, called a forespice (Yiddish for "before food"), to start the meal. The forespice may consist of a savory pastry such as a knish or piroshki, a variety meat such as sweetbread or tongue, a smaller portion of a main dish such as stuffed cabbage or stuffed peppers, or a bread spread such as chopped liver or chopped herring.

In the synagogue following morning services on the Sabbath and holidays, Ashkenazim traditionally enjoy a buffet called a kiddush, named after the Hebrew word for the blessing over wine. A kiddush may be a simple affair, consisting of wine or schnapps, a plate of pickled herring, and some kichlach (egg cookies) and crackers, or it may be an elaborate sit-down spread. Occasionally, bread rolls accompany the kiddush and it serves as the Sabbath morning seudah (meal).

Opposite: Lighting the Sabbath candles. Engraving, Venice, 1593. "On Sabbath eve two angels accompany a man home from the synagogue. If the lamp is burning, the table set, and the couch covered, the good angel declares. 'May it be thus on the next Sabbath, too,' and the evil angel is obliged to answer 'Amen.' But if not, the evil angel declares, 'May it be thus on the next Sabbath, too,' and the good angel is obliged to answer 'Amen.' (TALMUD SHABBAT 119b).

Middle Eastern dining is very different from European. In ancient Persia, for example, parties centered on wine (see Esther 5:6), and to counter any sour taste in the wine, hosts offered a variety of tidbits to eat. This practice endures as an appetizer assortment known as a meze. A modest meze table — a medley of tastes, textures, aromas, and colors — may feature a half-dozen dishes: both cooked and uncooked, simple and elaborate, hot and cold, and almost always served in small portions. A typical meze includes a variety of spreads, salads, olives, pickles, and bite-sized pastries. A more elaborate affair may contain meat dishes such as fried kibbe (meat patties) and mortadel (filled meatballs). The meze is generally accompanied with pita bread and fiery condiments such as z'chug and harissa.

Spreads and Dips

Bread constituted the bulk of the ancient world's diet. Those coarse, hard loaves were very different from the refined breads of the modern world, however, and were generally consumed with a relish or salad to make them more palatable. The Talmud, which contains at least five different terms for relishes used with breads, states, "One who is about to recite the hamotzi [blessing over bread] is not permitted to do so before salt and relish is placed before him" (Berachot 40a).

Salata de Berenjena/Putlejela

Eggplant Salad

About 2 cups; 4 to 5 servings

By the fourth century C.E., the eggplant had arrived in the Near East from India and quickly became a meze favorite served in numerous ways (the Turks claim to have more than 150 ways of preparing eggplant), including fried in olive oil, then bathed in spices and herbs or smothered in yogurt; stewed with other vegetables; stuffed with meat or rice; wrapped in phyllo or flaky pastry; and, the most popular of all, roasted, then mashed into a creamy paste. The Ottoman Turks spread the concept of mashed eggplant salad to the far reaches of their empire, which at one time stretched from North Africa to the Ukraine. Thus, eggplant salad became a weekday as well as a holiday favorite in Jewish communities from Marrakech to Odessa.

The seasonings, reflecting regional tastes, vary from place to place:Romanians increase the amount of garlic and add chopped onions to their putlejela; Persians add dried mint and a little ground cinnamon to nazkhatun; Russians use vinegar instead of lemon juice and add finely chopped raw onion and chopped tomatoes to baklazhannaya ikra (ikra is a Slavic word for "caviar"); in Calcutta they zest up brinjal bharta (bharta is the Hindi word for "mashed") with minced green chilies; and Yemenites add tomato puree and z'chug (chili paste; see page 379) to their bsalada batinjan. The following is a typical Sephardic version.

1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds)

2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 to 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

1 to 2 cloves garlic, crushed

About 1 teaspoon salt

Ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Black olives for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cut several slits in the eggplant. (If the steam is not vented, the eggplant will burst.) Place on a baking sheet and bake, turning once, until very tender, about 45 minutes. Or roast the eggplant over a gas flame until the outside is charred and the inside is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. (Roasting the eggplant imparts a pleasing smoky flavor.) Let stand until cool enough to handle.

3. Peel the eggplant, removing all the skin. (The skin becomes bitter when burnt.) Pour off any juice. Finely mash the pulp with a fork or, for a smoother consistency, puree in a blender or food processor.

4. Stir in the lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to meld. Store the eggplant salad in the refrigerator.

5. Spread the eggplant mixture on a serving plate, sprinkle with the parsley, and garnish with olives. Serve with bread, crackers, matza, or vegetable crudites.


Baba Ghanouj (Middle Eastern Eggplant Salad): Add 3 to 5 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste) and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin. (Note: Baba is the Arabic word for "father," as well as a term of endearment; ghanouj means "indulged.")

Israeli-Style Baba Ghanouj: Substitute 1/4 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise for the oil and add 3 to 5 tablespoons tahini, 3 mashed hardboiled eggs, and 4 minced scallions.


Italian Braised Eggplant

10 to 12 servings as an appetizer, 6 to 8 as a side dish

The Arabs controlled Sicily from 965 to 1060, during which time they introduced many of their favorite foods to the island. Vegetables like eggplant were embraced by the Jews, while at first virtually ignored by most non-Jews. This dish (the name is derived from cappone, a Latin term for sweet-and-sour dishes) developed as an eggplant salad for Sabbath lunch: vinegar was added as a preservative, the sugar to counteract the taste of the acid.

Sicily fell under Spanish rule in 1377. Thus, in 1492, the Spanish edict of expulsion was applied to the nearly forty thousand Jews of Sicily. Although this ancient Jewish community disappeared from the island of Sicily (Sicilian Jews organized congregations in Rome, Salonika, Aleppo, and Turkey, preserving their customs until World War II), it left behind one of the area's most famous dishes, caponata. Today, many variations of this dish are found throughout Italy.

2 medium eggplants (about 3 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

About 2 tablespoons kosher salt

3/4 cup olive oil

3 medium red or yellow onions, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

4 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1 to 2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped

2 cloves, garlic, minced

4 cups (2 pounds) peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes

1 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped

2 to 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon sugar or honey

1/4 cup capers, drained

Salt to taste

1. Place the eggplant in a colander, sprinkle with the kosher salt, and let stand for 1 hour. Rinse the eggplant with water and press between several layers of paper towels until it feels firm. (The eggplant can be prepared ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours.)

2. Heat 1/2 cup of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the eggplant cubes and saute until golden brown and tender but still firm, about 10 minutes. Remove the eggplant and drain off any oil.

3. Heat the remaining 1/4 cup oil in the pan. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic and saute until softened, about 10 minutes.

4. Return the eggplant to the pan and add the tomatoes, olives, vinegar, parsley, basil, and sugar or honey. Cover and simmer over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Or bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes.

5. Stir in the capers and , if needed, salt. Serve warm or at room temperature (the flavors meld as it stands) as an appetizer with crusty bread or crackers or as a side dish with cold meats or poultry. Caponata keeps well in the refrigerator.


Substitute 2 cups tomato juice and 1/4 cup tomato paste for the fresh tomatoes.

Hummus bi Tahini

Middle Eastern Chickpea and Sesame Dip

About 2 cups; 4 to 5 servings

Middle Easterners enjoy a variety of spreads and dips prepared by mashing beans (salatet ful abiad) and lentils (salata ades), long a staple of the region, into a smooth consistency. Unquestionably, the most popular of these legume dishes is a thick chickpea-and-sesame puree called hummus bi tahini or, more informally, hummus.

2 cups cooked chickpeas, about 1/4 cup cooking liquid, or water, reserved

3 to 6 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste), stirred

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice

About 1 teaspoon salt

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or coriander

About 1 tablespoon olive oil

1. In a blender or food processor, puree the chickpeas,tahini, chickpea cooking liquid or water, garlic, lemon juice,salt, and cumin. If too dry, blend in enough additional cooking liquid or water to make a smooth paste with the consistency of mayonnaise.

2. Spread the hummus on a plate and sprinkle with the parsley or coriander and drizzle with the olive oil. Serve at room temperature with pita bread or crackers.


Yemenite Fenugreek Relish

About 3/4 cup

In Yemen, chilbeh is used as an all-purpose spread and condiment, much in the manner that Americans use ketchup and salsa. Chilies and tomatoes are relatively modern additions to this spread: chilies for their bite and tomatoes to mellow the flavor. Indian Jews make a version adding their own spice combinations.

2 tablespoons finely ground fenugreek seeds

2 cups cold water

1/2 cup tomato sauce (or 2 tablespoons tomato puree and 1/4 cup cold water)

About 2 teaspoons z'chug (Yemenite chili paste; see page 379) or 1 teaspoon seeded and minced green chili

About 1 teaspoon salt

Ground black pepper to taste

1. Place the fenugreek in a bowl, pour the water over the top, and stir to mix. Let the fenugreek soak in the water for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight (this removes the bitterness).

2. Carefully pour off the water. Stir to form a paste. Add the tomato sauce, z'chug or chilies,salt,and pepper. If the paste is too thick to spread — fenugreek expands and firms when exposed to liquid — stir in a little cold water. Store the chilbeh in the refrigerator. Serve with pita bread or hard-boiled eggs and as a condiment for any savory dish.


Z'chug is dominated by the flavor of fenugreek, a squarish, yellow-brown member of the pea family native to the eastern Mediterranean region. The word fenugreek is derived from the Latin term foenum-graecum (Greek hay), a reference to the use of its leaves as animal fodder. Unheated fenugreek is very astringent, with a celery-like flavor. The legume's attributes emerge when lightly heated,producing a mellow flavor similar to caramelized sugar. (Its principal use in America is in imitation maple syrup.) However, overtoasting results in a disagreeable bitterness. Fenugreek is particularly popular in Yemenite, Ethiopian, Moroccan, Georgian, and Indian cuisine. It is available in Middle Eastern and specialty stores both whole and ground.


Greek Fish Roe Dip

About 2 cups; 4 to 5 servings

The foreign influence on Greek cuisine, most notably Ottoman, Persian, and Italian, is clearly demonstrated in the foreign titles of so many of the country's dishes. Versions of fish roe dip can be found throughout the eastern Mediterranean region, but nowhere is it more popular than in Greece.

Taramasalata, a salty, pale-pink-colored dip, is made with the roe of various fish, such as shad and gray mullet, but ever since Jewish merchants introduced carp to the Balkans in the sixteenth century, it has primarily been made from carp roe (tarama in Greek).

Unprocessed tarama can be found in Greek and many Middle Eastern food stores. Red salmon caviar makes a tasty substitute.

3 slices white bread, trimmed of crusts

About 2 cups water

4 ounces (about 1/4 cup) carp roe, shad roe, or red caviar

1 cup olive or vegetable oil


2 large eggs or 1/4 cup seltzer

2 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Soak the bread in the water until soft. Squeeze out the excess liquid and crumble the bread.

2. In a blender or food processor or using an electric mixer, puree the bread and caviar.

3. With the machine on, gradually add the oil, processing until the mixture is smooth and has a mayonnaise-like consistency.

4. Gradually blend in the eggs or seltzer, then the lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with pita bread, French bread, crackers, or vegetable crudités. Taramasalata is traditionally accompanied with an anise-flavored liqueur such as ouzo or araq.


Reduce the amount of bread to 1 slice and add 1 large boiled, peeled, and mashed potato.

Gehakte Eier

Ashkenazic Egg Salad

About 2 cups; 4 to 5 servings

By the eleventh century, Franco-German Jews had developed the Sabbath custom of eating hard-boiled eggs and salted raw onions, separately. At some point, the two items came together in the form of an egg salad. This dish, also called eier un schmaltz (eggs with poultry fat), remains popular among Ashkenazim for such light meals as a kiddush (Sabbath morning buffet) or shalosh seudot (Sabbath afternoon meal) and at many life-cycle events. The duo of hard-boiled eggs and raw onions was also mixed with other common items to form such favorite Ashkenazic appetizers as gehakte leber (chopped liver) and gehakte hirring (chopped herring).

Egg salad makes a tasty appetizer or filling for a sandwich. Some people prefer a chunkier texture, while others favor a smoother dish. For a less pungent flavor, sauté the onion in a little schmaltz or oil until golden. You can further vary the flavor and texture by stirring in such additions as chopped celery, sautéed mushrooms, gribenes (poultry cracklings), coarsely chopped walnuts, minced green or red bell peppers, and even a little unorthodox caviar and a dash of lemon juice. Yemenites prepare a zesty version, without the schmaltz, adding chopped sour pickles and minced red chilies.

1/4 cup schmaltz (see page 109) or vegetable oil

1 medium yellow onion or 6 scallions, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or dill

About 1 teaspoon salt

Ground black pepper to taste

6 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped or mashed

Lettuce leaves for garnish

Paprika for garnish (optional)

Cucumber slices, tomato slices, and/or black olives for garnish

1. In a medium bowl, combine the schmaltz or oil, onion or scallions, parsley or dill, salt, and pepper, Stir in the eggs: For a chunkier texture, stir until the mixture just holds together; for a smoother texture, blend well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

2. For individual portions, arrange scoops of the egg salad on a bed of lettuce and, if desired, sprinkle with the paprika. Garnish with cucumber slices, tomato slices, and/or black olives. Serve with crackers, matza, or slices of dark bread or challah.

Hint: Cooking eggs over high heat produces rubbery whites and green rings around the yolks. To prevent this, place the eggs in a single layer in a saucepan and add water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 15 minutes. Place the eggs in cold water until cool.

Gehakte Leber

Ashkenazic Chopped Liver

About 3 cups; 6 to 8 servings

Chopped liver, probably the best known of all Jewish dishes because of repeated references by Jewish comics, is a favorite Ashkenazic appetizer served on the Sabbath, on festivals, and on other special occasions. This dish dates back to the medieval Alsatian communities, renowned for the soft livers of their force-fed geese. (In the seventeenth century, chef Jean-Pierre Close used goose liver raised by Alsatian Jews to invent pâaté de foie gras.) In eastern Europe, chicken or beef liver, both less creamy than goose liver, were commonly used, but otherwise the dish remained the same. The chopped, broiled liver is supplemented with the Ashkenazic favorites, hard-boiled eggs and onions. Unlike pate, the texture of chopped liver should be slightly coarse. For a more pungent flavor, do not sauté the onions but add them raw to the gehakte leber. Some cooks like to grind several tablespoons of gribenes (poultry cracklings) with the liver.

1 pound chicken livers (about 12) or beef liver

Kosher salt

About 6 tablespoons schmaltz (see page 109) or vegetable oil

3 medium yellow onions, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

4 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped

About 1 teaspoon salt

Ground black pepper to taste

Lettuce leaves for garnish

Cucumber slices, tomato slices, and/or black olives for garnish

1. Wash the liver and pat dry. Sprinkle lightly with the kosher salt. Place on a rack on a broiler pan and broil on both sides 4 inches from the heat source until light brown and the blood has dripped off, about 5 minutes per side for the beef liver, about 3 minutes per side for the chicken livers. Rinse with cold water. (Because of the large quantity of blood contained in liver, it cannot be made kosher in the same manner as other meats but must be broiled over or under a flame.)

2. Heat 4 tablespoons of the schmaltz or oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

3. Process the liver, onions, and eggs through a food grinder or in a food processor until coarsely chopped.

4. Stir in enough of the remaining 2 tablespoons schmaltz or oil to moisten. Season with the salt and pepper. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator or freezer.

5. For individual portions, arrange scoops of chopped liver on a bed of lettuce and garnish with cucumber slices, tomato slices, and/or black olives. Serve with crackers, matza, or slices or dark bread or challah.

Gehakte, Hirring

Eastern European Chopped Herring

About 2 1/4 cups: 4 to 5 servings

Herring, one of the few fish capable of surviving in the brackish waters of the Baltic Sea, became the primary form of protein for many of the people living in the adjoining lands of Sweden, the Baltic states, western Russia, and eastern Poland; people from western Poland, reflecting a pronounced German influence, ate much less of this fish. Typical of the northern European pantry, herring was generally salted, pickled, dried, or smoked, methods necessary to preserve limited resources during the long, harsh winters.

Chopped herring is a popular eastern European appetizer made from the predominant fish of the area, hard-boiled eggs, and raw onions. Vinegar and sugar or sweet wine are added to create a sweet-and-sour flavor to contrast with the flavor of the fish. In order to make this dish, European cooks soaked, skinned, boned, and pickled their own herring. Today, such labor is no longer necessary, since jars of pickled herring are available in most grocery stores.

2 slices challah or white bread, trimmed of crusts, or 2 cups crumbled matza

1/4 cup cider or white vinegar

1 (16-ounce) jar pickled herring fillets, drained

2 to 3 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped

1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)

About 1 tablespoon sugar or sweet red wine

Chopped scallions, fresh parsley, or hard-boiled eggs for garnish

1. Soak the bread or matza in the vinegar until moist, about 5 minutes. Squeeze out the liquid.

2. Discard any onions from the herring jar. Rinse the herring well under cold running water and pat dry.

3. In a chopping bowl or a food grinder, chop the herring and bread or matza with the eggs and onion. Or process in a food processor until almost pureed. Check the seasonings, adding sugar or wine to taste. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to allow the flavors to meld.

4. Mound the herring mixture on a serving plate and garnish with chopped scallions, parsley, or eggs. Serve with rye bread, black bread, crackers, matza, or kichlach (egg cookies; see page 321).


Herring and Apple Spread: Add 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce or 1 to 2 peeled, cored, and minced tart apples.

Lithuanian Herring Salad: Add 1 cup sour cream, 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish, and, if desired, 3 tablespoons chopped dill pickle.

Charkhalis Pkhali

Georgian Beet Salad

About 4 cups; 6 to 8 servings

The agricultural conditions in Georgia lend themselves to high-quality fresh produce. A favorite way of preparing vegetables is pkhali — similar to the Turkish piyaz — a salad made from a single chopped cooked vegetable. Although many different vegetables are used to make this dish, all pkhali have a common denominator — a walnut sauce called bazha. The flavor of the finished product varies as the sauce interacts with a particular vegetable. The secret to pkhali is allowing it to stand long enough for the flavors to meld. Hosts usually offer several kinds of pkhali, as each has a distinct taste. Serve pkhali with a bread such as pita or lavash (see page 268).

5 medium beets (about 1 1/2 pounds)

About 1 cup bazha (walnut sauce; see page 375)

Chopped fresh parsley or coriander for garnish

1. Trim the beets, leaving about 1 inch of the stem intact. Wash the beets, but do not scrub or pierce the skin or the color will bleed.

2. Place the beets in a large saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Drain.

3. When cool enough to handle, slip off and discard the skins. Finely chop the pulp. Stir the bazha into the beets. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

4. To serve, spread the pkhali on a plate, smoothing the top. Score a diamond pattern in the surface and garnish with chopped parsley or coriander.


Lobio Pkhali (Georgian Bean Salad): Substitute 3 cups cooked red beans or 1 1/2 pounds shelled, cooked, and drained fresh fava beans for the beets. Garnish with a sliced red onion.

Isanakhi Pkhali (Georgian Spinach Salad): Substitute 2 pounds cooked, squeezed, and chopped fresh spinach or beet greens for the beets. Garnish with coarsely chopped walnuts or pomegranate seeds.


"Ask anyone from the former Soviet Union." declares Esther Davidashvili, a native of Tbilisi, Georgia, and currently a resident of Jerusalem, "and they'll agree that the food of Georgia is the best of the entire region. People came from all over the former Soviet Union just to experience our cuisine, and the best restaurants in Moscow used to be Georgian."

Situated between the Black Sea to the west, the southern edge of the Great Caucasus Mountains and Russia to the north, and Turkey to the south lies the ancient country of Georgia. This location propitiously placed the region at the crossroads of the spice and silk trades between East and West, accounting for the land's once-legendary wealth.

"The rich Georgian soil yields an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs," Davidashvili notes. "The presence of herbs — coriander is the most popular — is rather pronounced in Georgian cooking, while spices are always used with subtlety. Georgians aren't rice eaters like the Persians and central Asians or noodle eaters like the eastern Europeans. We prefer bread and corn. Georgia is justly renowned for its grapes, wines [which is rather appropriate, since the area may actually be the original home of the vine], and wine vinegars [the predominant souring agent].

"Georgians prefer their food tart — never sweet-and-sour," declares Davidashvili. Georgian cooks found numerous ways to dress up their dishes with an array of pungent sauces. The pride and joy of every Georgian cook is tkemali, a sour plum sauce used to flavor a large variety of dishes. A pomegranate sauce called narsharab adds a refreshing tartness to dishes. Unquestionably, the most conspicuous element of Georgian cooking is a delicate walnut sauce called bazha. "We had several walnut trees in our yard, a common practice in Georgia, and used the nuts in sauces, salads, soups, stews, and confections.

"Since ancient times, Georgians have been masterful shepherds and herdsmen, and meat — primarily lamb — constitutes a major component of the diet," she continues. "Georgians love grilled meats such as shashlik [a form of shish kebab], stews, and dolmas [stuffed vegetables]. Dairy products are found primarily in the form of matsoni [Georgian yogurt] and an array of khveli [cheeses]." For such a dairy-rich country, it is rather surprising that butter plays such a negligible role in cooking, used primarily to add flavor to baked goods and occasionally for frying. "The preferred fat is zeti [oil], usually made from sunflowers and occasionally from walnuts.

"Georgian desserts usually consist of fresh fruit," Davidashvili says. Pastries reflect the Middle Eastern influence of honey- soaked phyllo pastries. "Hospitality is of such importance to Georgians that the dinner table is always kept set in order to promptly serve unexpected guests. We love sitting around the table not only eating but talking and singing — indeed, it is the favorite Georgian pastime."

Copyright © 1996 by Gil Marks

Meet the Author

Gil Marks, a chef, rabbi, writer, and historian, is a leading expert in the field of Jewish cookery. The founding editor of Kosher Gourmet magazine, Marks lectures frequently on Jewish cooking, including at New York's 92nd Street Y Kosher Cooking School. He is also the author of The World of Jewish Entertaining, and he lives in New York City.

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World Of Jewish Cooking: More Than 500 Traditional Recipes from Alsace to Yemen 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have owned this cookbook for several years and have always been happy with every recipe I try. It is a terrific collection of Jewish recipes from around the world. That is why I was shocked to read one reviewer write 'I'm not looking for a sampling of Jewish recipes from all over the world, I'm looking for the tried and true, known cultural dishes from Jews.' DUH! Jews come from all over the world and this book reflects that. My ancestors are both sephardic and ashkenazic, and they would be satisfied to eat at Gil Marks' table.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for people who are looking to experiment with new foods. There are great variations on traditional recipes and recipes for the standards. Everything I've made has come out well. I particularly think that the stuffed cabbage recipe and the bread recipes are worth the price of the book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I did not find this book disappointing, rather I found it a very interesting book filled with many stories and recipes. I bought the book about two years ago, growing up in New York City and Brooklyn, I was looking for recipes that I knew and loved from my area as a child. I have referred to the book for its recipes (some better than others--I think the reader should try the recipes and adjust to taste), but more than that, I've sat down and actually read the book from cover to cover. I enjoyed the stories included by the author of the history of a certain recipe, whether from Eastern or Central Europe, Yemen, Italy, Morocco or the Rhine Valley. This book is not strictly a recipe book, it falls more under the rare category of an overview of a culture, its diverse people, and how food is shared with family--something we all have in common and an important part of all of our lives, whether we are of Jewish descent or not. I enjoyed Gil Marks' stories and the many photographs dispersed throughout the pages. If you're looking for more than just a cookbook, I think you'll find this book is for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I did not like how this book was organized at all. I'm not looking for a sampling of Jewish recipes from all over the world, I'm looking for the tried and true, known cultural dishes from Jews. I have browsed through much better Jewish cookbooks at bookstores and at libraries.