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A Fistful of Lentils:

Syrian-Jewish Recipes from Grandma Fritzie's Kitchen

by Jennifer Felicia Abadi

published by Harvard Common Press

The author has kindly shared these recipes:

click to get all chef & cookbook recipes


In the introduction to this joyful and loving book, author Jennifer Felicia Abadi states her intention clearly:  "This cookbook is more than just a collection of recipes.  It is a torch holder of a remarkable culture that has clung to its origins with pride and tenacity over thousands of miles and many years."  This promise is fulfilled but her statement merely hints at the unique and luscious recipes to be found in its pages, and to the celebratory spirit of life that unfolds through the family memories that are scattered through the book.  This is a life-affirming cookbook as well as one with fascinating recipes that are not easily found elsewhere.

Abadi has collected rich and unusual recipes, typical of the Syrian-Jewish fare.  Working within her own family many of the recipes were those that she learned from her grandmother who didn't write down her recipes.  She didn't need to as cooking was an art form to her generation of Syrian women, and part of the pleasure of this book is being inspired by women whose goal was nothing less than perfection.   We thank Abadi for recording these before they could be lost.  These are primarily Sephardic recipes, highly influenced by the Arabs who once dominated Syria and which found their most refined expression in Aleppo.  This is both Jewish cooking and Arab cooking and the synthesis is sublime.  The recipes are so beautifully spiced and flavored that their aromas rise from the page before the cooking has begun.   All of the recipes are kosher, and many are special holiday dishes.

No reader will linger long over imagined aromas, however, as the recipes - more than 125- entice one to begin cooking.  Among the recipes you will find dishes such as Lamb with Lemon and Olives or Stuffed Squash with Lemon-Mint Sauce, Spinach-Mint Soup or Crushed Wheat, Chickpeas and Pot Cheese.

Abadi has included a glossary listing ingredients; a list of specialty stores; a menu planner.   Despite her thoroughness, it is the celebratory sense of life, the unique recipes that makes this book a must-have on every shelf.


About the author:   Jennifer Felicia Abadi has published recipes in the Daily News and the New York Times Magazine.  Her artwork appeared in the Passover cookbook Let My People Eat! and Italian Food and Wine Magazine.  She is both a graphic designer and illustrator. 


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