The miracle of Hanukkah was not, alas, brought about by a latke. The eternal flame, it seems, was kept alive not by everyone’s favorite fried Jewish food, but by olive oil. According to historians, there can be little doubt that the oil used to light the menorah 2,200 years ago was olive oil. In ancient times it was used for everything from lighting to food to cosmetics.
What would you do with a one-pound bag of toasted buckwheat groats, a.k.a. kasha? If you’re like most Ashkenazi Jews, you’d probably cook up kasha varnishkes, the Jewish “soul food” side dish made of kasha, sautéed onions, bowtie pasta, and often mushrooms. If you’re not Jewish, well, you probably wouldn’t have the kasha in the first place!
Of the many unusual ingredients in Persian cuisine, rose water, which tastes like flower petals, may be the most exotic. Persians, according to Reyna Simnegar, the Jewish, Venezuelan-born author of the new cookbook “Persian Food From the Non-Persian Bride, and other Kosher Sephardic Recipes You will Love!,” consume rose water in order to carry on “the enchantment and mystery, the passion and romance that are characteristic of their people and their culture.”
Several years ago, a friend invited me to a Shabbat dinner in Brooklyn. When I arrived, I was greeted by a glass of red wine, and lots of friendly, familiar faces. And then I saw it: a huge spread of take-out Chinese food, complete with plastic containers, paper cartons, and piles of napkins. Wait, what? I confess: The food snob in me was slightly taken aback by the prospect of serving mediocre take-out food to guests.