Whether around a table, a stove or a cutting board, cooking draws us together. It draws us close with the quiet intimacy of sizzling onions, the warmth of thinly sliced eggplant, the fragrance of broiled lamb. We open a cookbook and draw closer to our heritage through recipes learned from cherished family members. And a cookbook like The Jewish Kitchen Diaries: A Journey through Time and Culture, by the Israeli cooking collective the Spice Girls, overflows with that which binds us: spices, herbs, histories, cultures — and friendship.
The Spice Girls of Netivot, Israel, first gathered to cook a decade ago. They called themselves the Tavlinim (“spices”), a name that affectionately morphed into “Spice Girls.” This small group of women began by preparing meals in their homes for tour groups, but word of their delicious food traveled quickly, and local businesses rushed to hire the Spice Girls to cater their events. The group flourished and grew.
Meanwhile, through the Jewish Federation’s program Partnership2Gether, which creates connected communities around Jewish identity, women from Philadelphia were meeting their counterparts from our sister city Netivot— and exchanging recipes. In the process, they and the Spice Girls created a unique Israeli-Jewish American cookbook whose roots reach from the Middle East and North Africa to Russia and Eastern Europe, nurturing bonds between kitchens and culinary traditions an ocean apart.
In the coming weeks, Jewish Philly will bring you different recipes from the Spice Girls, some of which will be familiar, others exotic. Use these dishes as a way to draw together with loved ones, with new friends and old, and enjoy the warmth of tradition. B’te-avon (bon appétit)!
The Jewish Kitchen Diaries: A Journey through Time and Culture is available for a $25 donation to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Contact Beth Razin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215.832.0536.
For your festive Rosh Hashanah table:
Salmon Gefilte Fish
Ingredients (makes 30 patties):
10 lb. salmon
4 medium onions, peeled and quartered
3 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup or so matzoh meal
2 ½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground white pepper
8 carrots, peeled and cut in rounds
2 ribs of celery
Juice of two lemons
⅓ of a bunch of dill
1 tbsp. sugar
Prepare the Fish:
1. Ask the fishmonger to remove fish head, bones and skin. Set aside bones and head. Fillet and cut fish into 1-1½” sections.
2. Using the on/off pulsing motion in a food processor, finely chop the fish. Transfer to a large bowl.
3. Finely chop two onions.
4. Mix in three beaten eggs and enough matzo meal to hold the mixture together. Add 1½ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. white pepper.
5. Hands moistened in a bowl of iced water, shape fish mixture into oval dumplings, each about 2 ½” long by 1½” wide.
6. Arrange on cling wrap-lined baking sheets. Cover and chill while preparing stock.
Prepare the Stock:
7. Place reserved salmon head, skin and bones into a large, 12-quart (12 liter) pot. Add 5-6 quarts cold water. Bring to a boil and skim off the foam.
8. Add the chopped carrots, celery, remaining onions, lemon juice, dill, sugar, salt and remaining white pepper.
9. Reduce to medium heat, cover pot and simmer stock 30-40 minutes.
10. Using a slotted spoon, remove all the solids from the fish stock, including the celery and dill, and discard everything but the carrots.
11. Bring the stock back to simmer over medium heat. Gently drop half of the fish dumplings into the stock. Cover pot and simmer until dumplings rise to the top, are tender and cooked through – about 30 minutes.
12. Using a slotted spoon, transfer dumplings to a 13x9x2” baking dish and arrange in a single layer.
13. Repeat cooking with remaining dumplings, transferring to another shallow dish.
14. Strain stock over the fish and add the carrots. Serve with sliced cucumbers, radishes and horseradish.