A couple of years ago I just go so sick of the holidays, not because they are all are inherently shitty holidays, but just the fact that they are the same thing every year. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Serbian Christmas, and Martin Luther King Day all go down exactly how they always have. Well, New Years changes the location quite a bit but you know what I mean; we are still celebrating the same damn holidays every year. Recently Mr. Smurf found out that he is technically Jewish and I thought it would be nice to start celebrating some of the Jewish holidays. And so I got “Olive Trees and Honey“, a book about Jewish cuisine from all over the world, which I have wanted for a while because it gets really positive reviews.
I have quickly fallen in love with this book. Every recipe is a history lesson about a particular tradition, how Jews came to live in a certain place, how cultures mingled, or even how people started to eat a certain type of food. The recipes are all clearly written and, like my other recent favorite, Viva Vegan, the book has many regional adaptations and variations after the recipe. Sometimes the variations are kind of funny, like if you want to make something Hungarian omit the other spices and add paprika. God, those Hungarians must really love their paprika because this seems to be true of every recipe I have ever read in my life. What the hell is going on over there? As someone of Serbian background I also think it is pretty ridiculous that the author always lumps the former Yugoslavia together as “The Balkans”, not really because it isn’t quite accurate but because a certain TV show that I love right now has a bad guy called “The Balkan” so I can’t help but laugh.
The only other issue that I have with the book is that, I would say, 95 percent of the recipes have eggs in them. Sometimes eggs are easy enough to get around, like if one is used as a binder in a dumpling or if they are in a pasta dough. But, other times eggs are impossible or at least very difficult to substitute for. [If you need help veganizing something with eggs check out this post on My Vegetarian Recipes”.] Someone somewhere said if a recipe calls for more than 3 eggs to not even bother veganizing it and many of the recipes call for 6! Certainly they are not as simple as subbing for meat or cheese or milk. But I still love the cookbook and I can easily enough make most of the recipes. So far everything has been fantastic.
I recently tried the Syrian Lentils with Chard, it is a fantastic recipe because it is totally lazy cooking but healthy too and very tasty. Also, I finally got to use my Pomegranate Molasses that I bought at least a year ago and immediately forgot what I bought it for so it has been sitting in the pantry ever since. Luckily it keeps forever so if you have been wondering what to do with yours try the recipe! I also switched it from lentils to split peas and cut wayyyy back on the oil.
Syrian Split Peas with Chard
1 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups water
2 1/3 cups split peas
1 lbs chard, shredded
1 bay leaf
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3/4 cups cilantro
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
Heat up the oil and toss in the onion and garlic. Once the onion has become translucent add the water, split peas, chard, salt and pepper. Simmer until the peas are tender and the water has mostly evaporated. Add in the cilantro and pomegranate molasses, mix and enjoy!
Yum! And you are right on about the paprika. My grandmother was Hungarian and only as an adult did I realize that not everyone chowed down on paprikash on a regular basis. (I haven’t veganized it yet, but I should try.) When my cousin did an internship in Hungary, she sent me a little gift set of hot and sweet paprika. I’m set for life now. When in doubt as to what you just made, shake on some paprika and call it Hungarian fusion!
yeah, that is such a great book. funny because I was looking through it last night and going on and on about how great it is… but also noticing how many eggs were in everything! ha. great minds think alike.
That looks delicious!
That cookbook sounds awesome! I need to see if a library around here has it. And I love the simply yumminess of those split peas & chard.
sounds like an interesting book. i kind of hate it when a vegetarian cookbook relies so heavily on eggs though. i become alternately grossed out and frustrated.
I’ve always wanted such a book. Thank you so much for your review.
P.S. Hungarians do love their paprika. In this case it’s really true. I spent some time in Hungary and learnd to love the spice over there. Plus I cannot tell you how many different kinds of dried and fresh paprika my host family had stored. So whenever a recipe calls for “Hungarian paprika” I ask myself: which one?
mihl- I love paprika too, but I love lots of spices! That is the strange thing about Hungarians they are about paprika and thats it!
6 eggs in a recipe?! that’s bananoodles! but the cookbook sounds really awesome, and i like that it has history lessons on different traditions. i love when a cookbook does something like that – makes the dish a little more meaningful or somethin’ to me. pomegranate molasses, eh?! totally need to get me some – and split peas sound like a yummy substitution, too. i think the tend to have more flavor than lentils, and i like their texture better, too. anything with chard ‘n cilantro i’m in for – it looks so delicious!
Kmouse is always cooking from this. I need to buy this book already!
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I’ve seen so many great things cooked from this cookbook. Thanks for showing us some more gems.
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I had been eyeing this recipe as well! Do you think the cilantro is paramount or could it be omitted?
I think you could omit the cilantro if you don’t like it, even though there was a lot!
Thanks for getting back to me. I may wait until my next grocery store run to pick up some cilantro then.
If you need any ideas for using your pomegranate molasses, I have a few on my blog. This was my favourite: http://tastespace.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/turkish-bulgur-pomegranate-and-almond-salad/