Passover Around The World

A Fistful of Lentils
By Jennifer Abadi

In the 1960s, it was not necessarily unique to be Jewish on Manhattan’s
Upper West Side, but being of Sephardic or Middle Eastern descent was.
While my father’s side of the family was from Riga, Latvia, my mother’s
was from Aleppo, Syria. Things like yogurt, apricots, and pita bread were
staples in our refrigerator, which many of my fully Ashkenazi friends found strange. When I was young, my mother would reach for a large three-ring binder that contained dozens of recipes that she had collected from her mother, my grandma Fritzie, who was from Aleppo. For large dinner parties, my mother would create some of the most delicious Syrian dishes that anyone would ever taste. Tangy bulgur wheat with tomato paste, cumin, and tamarind. Meatballs with sour cherries. Chicken with tart apricots and tomatoes. Shredded phyllo pie with ricotta cheese filling and rose water syrup… These were just a few of the dishes that I was lucky to eat growing up.

Years later, inspired by this collection of dishes, I decided to embark upon a more in-depth cookbook project of my own to preserve these cherished family recipes I feared would be lost in the next generations. After years of work, I ended up illustrating, writing, and publishing a cookbook-memoir called, A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes From Grandma Fritzie’s Kitchen. Within the cookbook are more than 125 recipes, along with anecdotes, stories and the history of my mother’s family, which settled here in the early 1920s from Syria.

Through teaching, lecturing, recipe developing/testing and cookbook writing I have made it not only my personal mission, but my profession to preserve traditional Sephardic recipes from all over the world, including Greek, Turkish, Moroccan, Algerian, Egyptian, Persian, and Iraqi — just to name a few! At the moment I am writing my second cookbook, which focuses on Sephardic recipes just for the holiday of Passover.

I am always looking for individuals interested in sharing unique family recipes for the seder and Passover week, as well as being interviewed about personal memories and stories regarding the holiday. If you are interested, please contact me at jabadi (at) fistfuloflentils (dot) com.

Photo © Lisa Alcalay Klug

Moroccan Charoset “Truffles” with Dates, Raisins, and Walnuts

1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup slivered almonds
6 large Mejool dates or 10 regular-size dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dark raisins
1 to 2 tablespoons sweet Passover wine, such as Manichewitz
cinnamon for dusting truffles
1 box of matzah sheets or cracker size matzahs

1. Place the walnuts and almonds into the food processor and pulse until coarsely ground, but not into a meal-like consistency (about 30 seconds).
2. Add the dates and raisins and combine in the food processor until a thick paste is formed.
3. Add one tablespoon of the wine at a time until the paste is smooth but not so sticky that you cannot roll it into small balls.
4. Taking approximately one tablespoon at a time, roll the thick paste into 1-inch balls* (if they paste is sticking too much to your hands, try dipping your hands in cold water and then rolling them) and sprinkle the outsides lightly with cinnamon. Store balls in a tightly covered plastic container in refrigerator for up to one week.
5. Dust the outsides of the balls with ground cinnamon. Serve haroset balls at room temperature on a platter, alongside tea matzahs (can also be served as a paste in one or two small dessert bowls, placed at either end of the Seder table.)
*Note: If you wish to serve it in the more common way of a paste in a bowl, then add a little more wine and warm water to make a bit smoother and softer for spreading.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8 (approximately 1 ½ cups or 24 one-inch balls)
©2009 Jennifer Abadi,

Photo © Lisa Alcalay Klug
Italian Macaroons with Almonds and Pignoli Nuts

1 cup ground almonds (or 1 1/2 cups whole blanched almonds, finely ground in food processor)
1 1/4 cups pine nuts
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup kosher for Passover “confectioner’s sugar” (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure kosher for Passover almond extract
1 teaspoon kosher for Passover vanilla extract
egg whites from 3 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 300˚ F.
2. Combine almonds (ground or whole) with pine nuts in a food processor until finely ground and well-combined.
3. Add granulated sugar and confectioner’s sugar and pulse together until a soft meal is formed.
4. Add almond and vanilla extracts and egg whites and pulse mixture once again until a soft paste is formed.
5. Drop one heaping teaspoon at a time onto a well-greased cookie sheet, one inch apart. Decorate each mound of cookie dough with three or four pine nuts (do not press down the cookie dough.)
6. Bake the macaroons until a light golden brown on bottom and edges, around 15 to 17 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then transfer with a metal spatula to a plate to cool completely. Store in airtight container in refrigerator or freezer up to one week.
Yield: Serves 10 (3 dozen macaroons)
©2009 Jennifer Abadi,

Jennifer Abadi wrote and illustrated her cookbook-memoir, A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes from Grandma’s Fritzie’s Kitchen — now in its third printing in paperback. Jennifer also assists others in writing and preserving their own family recipes. Four years ago, she created “The Traveling Palate,” a monthly event in New York City; guests enjoy a series of food demos and tastings and learn about less-common cuisines and cultures in an intimate café setting. Jennifer teaches cooking at the Jewish Community Center (JCC), the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) and in private homes. Her expertise covers a range of cuisines, including Syrian, Indian, Moroccan, Iraqi, Egyptian, Yemenite, Persian, Greek, Armenian, Georgian, and Turkish. Jennifer is an active member of The New York Women’s Culinary Alliance, and a contributor to, and She has also performed food demonstrations on NBC, ABC, and Fox 5 News television programs. For more information, visit

About tolerantamerica

On her recent tour for her book, Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe, Lisa was inspired by the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first African-American elected president of the United States, to encourage cross-cultural dialogue about multiculturalism in America. To increase tolerance and understanding across communities, Lisa launched "A More Tolerant America" to feature guest bloggers, authors, activists, artists and other writers, who, like her, are multicultural. Klug's father is a German-Jewish Holocaust survivor from Poland and the descendant of a Spanish Jewish family that escaped the Spanish Inquisition. During her tour, Lisa encountered ignorance and bigotry toward Jewish Americans. As part of her campaign, this blog will giveaway books and other materials that promote cross-cultural dialogue.
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1 Response to Passover Around The World

  1. I love the concept of family cookbooks and what better way to share your recipes than those focused around a significant holiday.
    Even though Passover is almost over, I’m going to visit family in a few days and plan on making your macaroons and taking them with me as a special treat. I may dip mine in chocolate. 🙂

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