Here’s a recipe for some tasty learning about Jewish culture: To a roomful of teenagers, add a lesson on Jewish food ways, a kitchen full of ingredients and a dash of competition. The result is “Top (Jewish) Chef,” where teens explore Jewish food, part of Berkeley Midrasha’s curriculum for post–b’nai mitzvah youth.
The teens have competed in an Ashkenazi/Sephardic cholent/dafina cookoff (dafina is the North African version of the Sabbath stew), as well as a challenge where they created a dish using at least three of the biblical seven species.
I was a guest judge at a recent Bene Israel Cookoff. The students had learned about the Bene Israel Jews of India and came to Congregation Beth El prepared to cook. They were divided into four teams and had to make a chutney from a recipe provided by teacher Anna Martin, as well as create their own version of malida, a Bene Israel spiced rice dish served with fruits and nuts.
The winner was a hot, spiced pineapple-mango salad by Stefan Moskowitz, Michelle Schiff, Sydney Palmer and Becky Friedman. Jaime Falcone-Juengert, Adin Krebs-Oppenheimer and Leo Pollack combined sweet and savory tomato chutney with mango and coconut into a bruschetta topping, Their dishes inspired the recipes below.
Pineapple-Mango Rice Pudding
1 can (13.5-15 oz.) light coconut milk
1⁄2 cup white basmati rice
1⁄2 cup sugar
pinch ground cardamom
1⁄2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 cup fresh mango, cut into
1 cup fresh pineapple, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
1⁄2 cup chopped strawberries
1⁄4 cup chopped pistachios or slivered almonds
1⁄4 cup finely chopped mint
1 Tbs. minced, seeded jalapeño pepper or to taste (optional)
Pour coconut milk into a large measuring cup. Add water until there is 21⁄2 cups of liquid. Mix with rice in medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in sugar, cardamom and ginger. Return to simmer, cover and lower heat to keep simmering, stirring occasionally until mixture is very thick and creamy, about 25-30 minutes. Stir in mango and pineapple chunks. Serve warm or at room temperature in one large or six individual serving bowls garnished with strawberries, nuts, mint and jalapeño (if using).
Makes 16 toasts
1⁄2 cup finely shredded or grated coconut (unsweetened)
2 lbs. fresh plum tomatoes
2 Tbs. olive oil, plus extra for brushing on bread
2 Tbs. minced fresh garlic
2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
2 cups fresh mango, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes
2 Tbs. tamarind concentrate or paste
1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1⁄2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1⁄2 tsp. sugar
1⁄8 tsp. ground cardamom
1⁄2 cup raisins
1⁄2 cup chopped cilantro
1 baguette of French or similar bread, about 24 inches long
Toast the coconut until golden brown over low heat in a dry, heavy, large fry pan or skillet, stirring constantly. Set coconut aside and wipe out pan. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise, squeezing out seeds. Chop tomatoes into 1⁄4-inch pieces. Set aside. Place 2 Tbs. oil in pan, raise heat to medium. Add garlic and sauté until golden. Add ginger, sauté for a minute.
Add tomato and mango pieces, tamarind, juice, salt, red pepper flakes, sugar, cardamom and raisins, mix well and sauté for about 5-6 minutes, until the tomatoes are just cooked and the flavors have melded. Taste and correct seasonings.
Mix in cilantro and remove from heat. Use warm or at room temperature. Just before serving, slice baguette into half lengthwise and then cut each half into 8 pieces, each about 3 inches long. Brush with oil and grill, broil or toast cut side until just golden. Spoon tomato-mango mixture on top of each slice. Sprinkle with the toasted coconut.
Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs at www.clickblogappetit.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.