Jewish cuisine embraces a world of flavor

Silvia Nacamulli, an expert on Italian-Jewish cuisine
Silvia Nacamulli, an expert on Italian-Jewish cuisine Photo submitted

If you hear the words "Jewish cooking" and all you picture is matzo balls and chicken soup, maybe a bagel and cream cheese, you will be pleasantly surprised by an event coming up on March 23.

Titled "Jewish Cuisine Through The Ages: Reliving Stories, Flavors & Aromas From Around The World," six chefs from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and South America will give culinary demonstrations and offer attendees a new perspective on the world of Jewish food.

This event, according to Dina Hecht, director of the event,"Really tells the history of our people and each country which crisscrossed around the globe throughout history. And so, a lot of the dishes are influenced by the country's cuisines but have a twist - people in the communities found ways to adapt to the local cuisines, finding ways to keep the values of Kosher and all the Jewish holidays."

Hecht says it took months of research and interviews "to really find people who could tell a story through their cooking - the story of their people through the eyes of the food."

The event is a project of The Jewish Women's Circle, which has chapters in Fairfield County, the shoreline, and New London County where there are active Chabad Jewish centers.

"Our mission is to create events and educational programs that bring Jewish women of all ages together," Hecht says," to celebrate and explore further into our identity, our heritage, and all the things we have in common."

THE PRESENTERS

Joan Nathan will present opening remarks. A regular contributor to The New York Times, Food Arts magazine and Tablet magazine, Nathan is the author of 10 award-winning cookbooks. In 1994 her "Jewish Cooking in America" won both the James Beard Award for the best American cookbook and the IACP/Julia Child Cookbook of the Year Award. In 2000 her PBS series "Jewish Cooking in America" was nominated for the James Beard Award for Best National Television Food Show. The mother of three grown children, Nathan lives with her husband in Washington, D.C., and on Martha's Vineyard.

A keynote speech will be given by Sara Esther Crispe, whose talk is titled "Food for Thought and Thought for Food: A spiritual, emotional, and psychological understanding of food and nourishment." Crispe is co-director of Interinclusion.org, an educational nonprofit agency. She has spoken worldwide on interpersonal relationships and the power of the Jewish women and has been a consultant on Judaism for the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is also well known for her writing, which can be found in publications including "The Huffington Post," and "Times of Israel."

ROTATING CULINARY DEMONSTRATIONS

Italy - Silvia Nacamulli

Nacamulli is an Italian-Jewish cooking expert who lives in London. She grew up observing three generations of Italian cooks preparing dishes infused with the traditions of the Venetian and Roman ghettos and Pitigliano - the "Little Jerusalem of Tuscany." Ingredients that characterize this cuisine include artichokes, pumpkin, courgette flowers, pine nuts and raisins.

Morocco - Levana Kirschenbaum

Born and raised in Casablanca, Kirschenbaum grew up with Maghreb Jewish traditions and foods. Now living in New York City, she is a cooking teacher and cookbook author known as "the diva of glorious simple healthy meals." Kirschenbaum will explore flavors of Moroccan vine leaves, chickpeas, preserved lemons, cumin, harissa and other ingredients from North Africa.

Persia - Lerone Edalati

Edalati's roots can be traced to the Crypto-Jews of the Iranian city of Mashad. Her cooking illustrates the story of her ancestors who secretly practiced their Jewish faith while outwardly practicing Islam after a forced mass conversion in 1839. Edalati's cooking features fragrant ingredients like Limoo omani, eggplants and sour grapes, cinnamon, saffron and rosewater.

France - Sophia Young Bapt

Living in Paris with French, North African and American roots, Bapt's boutique company, Voyages en Cuisine, based in Paris, offers workshops for cook enthusiasts and well-traveled foodies. Her dishes are imbued with truffles, lavender and sage of Province, fruit preserves from Alsace-Lorraine and champignons de Paris.

Syria - Poopa Dweck

Dweck is an expert on the food and customs of the Jews of Aleppo - one of the largest communities of Sephardic Jews - of which she is a descendent. She is known for her cookbook "Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of the Syrian Jews." She lives in New Jersey and gives lectures and cooking demonstrations worldwide. Her dishes are highlighted by a blend of tamarind sauce, allspice, pistachios, dried apricots and dates.

Brazil - Leticia Moreinos Schwartz

Schwartz was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro and studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York City. She has written two cookbooks inspired by her native cuisine. Schwartz lives in Weston and works as a consultant and spokesperson on Latin-American culture. Her dishes are suffused with the Sudamerican flavors of guava, coconut, cassava and cachaca.

Chef Roland Mesnier will conclude the event with a presentation about his life and career as the longest serving chef in the history of the White House. Serving for 26 years and five American presidents and their families, countless dignitaries, royalty, and heads of state, Mesnier is the author of five books and creator of more than 10,000 recipes.

Born in France, he began his career at age 12, learning and mastering his pastry-making skills first in France, then Germany and England. After he moved to the U.S. he was hired by First Lady Rosalyn Carter in 1980. Mesnier has won 18 gold medals for his pastry creations around the world. He will entertain guests with anecdotes of each first family and offer a demonstration of his presidential desserts.

Leticia Moreinos Schwartz
Leticia Moreinos Schwartz Photo submitted
Levana Kirschenbaum
Levana Kirschenbaum Photo submitted

IF YOU GO

What: "Jewish Cuisine Through The Ages"

Where: Omni Hotel, 155 Temple St., New Haven

When: Sunday, March 23, from 4 to 7:30 p.m.

Cost: General tickets are $55; Premium tickets are $95; and VIP tickets are $360.

Info and tickets: www.Jewish-CuisineThroughTheAges.com or call (203) 200-0113

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