Almeleh’s cookbook offers a cornucopia of recipes from Sephardic and other cuisines.
Almeleh’s passion is Sephardic cuisine, food of “Jews who were expelled from Spain during the Inquisition of 1492, many of which were allowed to settle in the Ottoman Empire.” Her parents were born on the formerly Ottoman Isle of Rhodes, though they met after immigrating to Seattle, Washington. The early death of her mother meant that Almeleh spent a great amount of time in the kitchens of her aunts and cousins, absorbing the traditional recipes in order to make them for herself. The book includes the range of Sephardic dishes that she learned from her extended family of cooks, a treasury of foods that demonstrate the influence of Spanish, Mediterranean, and American tastes. The recipes are organized by meal, starting with pastries, eggs, and breakfast foods, followed by snacks, appetizers, breads, pastas, entrees, and desserts. Special holiday sections include recipes for Passover and Thanksgiving. Many of the large pages contain color photographs of the dishes in various stages of completion. Directions are concise and to the point, as Almeleh offers tips but few shortcuts: many of the dishes are time-consuming, just as they were for the generations of Sephardic cooks through the ages. From boyos to bulemas to burecas to baklava, an entire history of migration and tradition are present in the food. Many recipes are vegetarian or suitable for those with nut and gluten allergies, though they are not always marked as such and may require some digging to uncover. The fun of this volume is sifting through its clutter for dishes the reader has never encountered, such as, for instance, the pretzel-like resha, which comes via Almeleh’s “dear cousin Esther.” The true standout is the Passover section, a collection of quashjadu, kiftes, and macaroons that dispels any notion that Pesach is a matzo-based holiday. Standard American cuisine is well-represented, particularly of the cookies-and-cakes variety. In fact, Almeleh might have done a book of desserts alone: there are three different recipes for pumpkin pie alone.
An inviting collection of Sephardic and Mediterranean recipes.