Cookstr’s Author of the Day: Jennifer Felicia Abadi
Posted by EmilyThursday January 10, 2013
Jennifer Felicia Abadi‘s A Fistful of Lentils is nothing short of touching, inspiring, and just delicious. Chock full of her own Grandmother Fritzie’s original recipes, this Syrian-Jewish cookbook is a sort of food memoir, sharing personal anecdotes and little snippets of history in addition to over 125 recipes. It may be Jennifer’s only cookbook, but its success has certainly made her worthy of Cookstr’s Author of the Day recognition today! Her recipes have also appeared in the Daily News and The New York Times Sunday Magazine, and her illustrations in the Passover cookbook Let My People Eat! and Italian Food and Wine Magazine. Jennifer hosts monthly food tastings and teaches cooking courses centered around Jewish and other Middle Eastern cuisines, so if you’re in New York City, I suggest getting on top of these!
To celebrate Jennifer and her beautiful book, here’s one of my favorites from it: Fassoulyeh b’Chuderah (Vegetarian Bean Stew with Cinnamon and Tomato Paste). Serve this chili-like stew over rice, and it’s just perfect on these frigid January days!
Recipe: Fassoulyeh b’Chuderah (Vegetarian Bean Stew with Cinnamon and Tomato Paste)
Summary: Although traditionally made with meat (see fassoulyeh b’lah’meh [Bean and Meat Stew, page 238]), this vegetarian version is equally delicious and filling. Slow, constant, and penetrating heat is one of the secrets of successful Syrian cooking, as it allows the different spices and ingredients to blend and mellow to a final richness. Like American-style chili, this is one of those dishes that actually tastes better the next day as the spices have time to meld with the sauce and vegetables. Serve this one over rice, with a salad and sbanech b’jibin (Spinach Cheese Pie, page 190) or kusa b’jibin (Squash Cheese Pie, page 188).
- One 16-ounce bag (about 21⁄2 cups) dried navy or cannellini beans
- 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 1⁄2 cups coarsely chopped yellow onions
- 1 1⁄2 tablespoons minced garlic
- Two 6-ounce cans unsalted tomato paste
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- Several grindings of black pepper
- 2 teaspoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 3 1⁄2 cups cold water
- 1 recipe Basic Syrian Rice
- 1. Submerge the beans in a medium-size bowl filled with cold water. Pick out small rocks and skim off any dirt and old shells that float to the surface. Drain. Place the beans in a medium-size saucepan and add enough cold water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and continue to cook at a slow boil over medium heat until fork-tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- 2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and cook the onions, stirring, until golden and soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, 1 more minute (take care that it doesn’t burn). Add the cooked beans, tomato paste, salt, cinnamon, pepper, brown sugar, and water.Mix well and simmer, covered, over medium-low heat until the beans are very soft and the sauce with the beans is almost as thick as chili, about 2 hours (stir the beans every 15 minutes so they do not burn and stick to the bottom of the pot).
- 3. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste and serve hot over the rice.
Number of servings (yield): 6