The Sephardic TableTitle: The Sephardic Table: The Vibrant Cooking of the Mediterranean Jews
Author: Pamela Grau Twena
Published: August 15, 1998
Country Published: USA
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN-10: 0395892600
ISBN-13: 978-0395892602

Sephardic Jews include those who left Spain during the Inquisition in 1492 and the people in Jewish communities where the Babylonian Talmud is followed. These communities, found mainly in the Middle East, tend to be exclusive, insular, and to eat very well.

From Morocco and Italy east to Iran and India, Sephardic cooking is a rich blend of herbs and spices, of sweet and savory flavors. Hummus, stuffed grape leaves, and pilafs made with rice or bulgur are a few Sephardic dishes you may recognize.

Author Pamela Grau Twena’s introduction to Sephardic cooking was unexpected. A nonobservant Jew from Hollywood, she met her husband, whose Orthodox family had emigrated from Iraq to Israel, on a blind date. After they married, they lived with his parents in Israel for one challenging year. The Sephardic Table grew, in part, from Twena’s efforts to bond with her conservative mother-in-law, who guarded her territory so jealously that it took Twena months just to be allowed in the kitchen.

Obtaining recipes was difficult, even outside the family, because most Sephardic women cook by habit and feel, not following written instructions. Asked how many eggs she puts in a dish, a woman sputtered, “How can I tell you? It depends on the chickens that day, it depends on the freshness of the flour.”

When she returned to the U.S., Twena continued her research in Sephardic cooking. Her collection of recipes, punctuated with moving personal stories, encompasses Italian Roasted Tomatoes generously seasoned with garlic, Indian Cardamom Chicken braised with six spices, and dishes from Sephardim living in countries everywhere in between. While Twena felt challenged by this ritualized way of cooking, where you are supposed to stir the pot in a particular way and are only allowed combine certain foods, even timid cooks can manage most of the recipes in The Sephardic Table.

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