Corn Tortillas with Fish and Vegetables (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Corn Tortillas with Fish and Vegetables (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Three tasty — and scholarly — Sephardi Jewish recipes

“To eat is to remember.” That phrase from Hélène Jawhara Piñer’s “Sephardi: Cooking the History” sums up the theme of this new book about the culinary heritage of Iberian Jews (before and after the Spanish Inquisition) and their diaspora.

Piñer, a historian specializing in medieval history and the history of food, focuses on Sephardic Jewish ingredients, recipes and customs that she has uncovered in sources ranging from Arabic cookbooks to legal documents from the 13th century to today.

These recipes from the book are adapted for style and space, as well as my experience cooking them.


Eggplant Almodrote

Serves 4

  • 2 medium eggplants (about 2 lbs. total)
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil plus more for serving
  • 1½ tsp. salt, divided
  • 2 tsp. distilled white vinegar
  • ½ cup grated hard cheese (such as Parmesan)

Wash eggplants, prick with a fork and bring to a simmer in a large pot of salted water. Simmer for 20 minutes or until very soft. If the eggplants rise to the surface, place a plate on top to keep submerged. In a saucepan, simmer the onion in salted water for 20 minutes or until very soft.

Drain vegetables and press out as much liquid as possible. Remove eggplants’ skin. Discard skins, place flesh in a bowl. Add cooked onion. Mash well with a fork. Set aside 5 minutes. Discard any liquid.

Add garlic, oil, 1 tsp. salt and vinegar to eggplant-onion mix. Sprinkle with cheese. Gently mix. Taste and add remaining ½ tsp. salt if desired.

Serve on toast with a drizzle of additional olive oil, or serve warm or cold as a dip or side dish.

Eggplant Almodrote (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Eggplant Almodrote (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Acelgas con Garbanzos

Serves 4

  • 1 bunch (7 to 8 oz.) Swiss chard
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 very thinly sliced medium onions
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • ½ lb. thinly sliced beef steak, optional
  • 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 handful chopped fresh cilantro

Wash chard. Trim stems and chop into ½-inch pieces. Remove any hard white veins from leaves. Chop leaves into ½-inch pieces. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Simmer leaves until tender (about 10 minutes). Scoop out of water and drain. Bring water back to boil and simmer stems until tender (about 10 minutes). Drain. Press any excess water out of stems and leaves

Put oil, onions, garlic, salt and pepper into a large skillet. If using meat, add to the pan now. Add the chickpeas and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat. Add chard leaves and stems. Cover pan and cook on low for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Notes: I browned the steak in oil before adding onions. This is the first recipe Piñer’s grandmother taught her.

Acelgas con Garbanzos (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Acelgas con Garbanzos (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Corn Tortillas with Fish and Vegetables

Serves 4

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 very thinly sliced small red onions
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ lb. firm, white-flesh fish, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • Juice of 1 medium lime
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tbs. minced chives
  • Corn tortillas (8-inch diameter)

Put olive oil, onions and garlic in large skillet. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes until golden. Add fish and pour in the lime juice. Add salt and pepper. Cover pan and cook on low for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and chives.

While the fish is cooking, heat the tortillas as desired and keep warm. Serve the fish and vegetables in the tortillas.

Notes: Piñer’s recipe shows how to make homemade tortillas. This is a Passover dish from Mexico.

Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. She blogs about her food at clickblogappetit.com. Contact Faith at [email protected].