Acclaimed food writer Paola Gavin* takes us on a wonderful culinary journey in her latest cookbook, Hazana: Jewish Vegetarian Cooking.
Spanning more than twenty countries from Poland to Morocco, Hazana uncovers the traditional vegetarian dishes that play such an important role in Jewish cooking.
In modern Hebrew, “Hazana” refers to “nourishment,” a word that encapsulates the role food and cooking play in Jewish life.
Wherever Jews have settled during their 2,000 years of exile, they adapted the dishes of their country of residence to fit their own dietary customs and laws and, as a result, Jewish food today embraces a vast variety of cuisines and cooking styles. Paola leads us from Israel through Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Italy and beyond, examining the subtle differences and genesis of the dishes of these regions.
With over 140 traditional and seminal Jewish vegetarian dishes passed down through generations, including Beetroot Salad with Pomegranate Molasses and Sesame Seeds, Venetian Polenta Pie, and Sabbath Minestrone, Hazana is sure to become an instant classic.
And just in time for Sukkot, below is Paola’s recipe (and one of my favorites from the book) for Green Pie from Thessaloniki (Pastel Verde).
Paola tells us that “pastels (pies) or pastelikos (little pies) were traditionally made by the Jews of Thessaloniki for the Sabbath, bar mitzvahs, and other special occasions. Most pastels use a simple pastry made from olive oil, flour, and water – except for this one, which is always prepared with filo pastry. Pastel verde is usually filled with a mixture of spinach, lettuce, leeks, spring onions (scallions) and herbs, but other greens can also be used, such as Swiss chard, beet greens, rocket (arugula), watercress or young, tender dandelion greens.”
Green pie from Thessaloniki (Pastel Verde)
Recipe excerpted with permission from Hazana: Jewish Vegetarian Cooking by Paola Gavin, published by Quadrille October 2017, RRP $35.00 hardcover.
450g (1lb) mixed greens
About 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
1 leek (including the green part), trimmed and thinly sliced
A handful of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
A handful of finely chopped dill
200g (7oz) feta cheese, crumbled
50g (1/2 cup) freshly grated parmesan or kefalotyri cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 or 9 large sheets of fresh or thawed frozen filo pastry
2–3 tablespoons sesame seeds
Wash the greens well, then cut into 1cm (1/2 in) slices. Cook in a covered saucepan for 7–8 minutes or until tender – the water on the leaves is sufficient to prevent scorching. Drain well.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and add the spring onions and leek. Cook over a moderate heat until they are starting to turn golden. Add the parsley and dill and cook for a further 3 minutes. Stir in the greens and simmer for 2–3 minutes.
Place the feta, eggs, and parmesan in a bowl and mix well. Stir in the greens mixture and season the filling with salt and pepper.
Brush a 23cm (9 in) springform cake tin with olive oil. Place a sheet of filo pastry over the top and brush lightly with olive oil. Repeat until half of the filo pastry sheets have been used. Spoon in the filling. Cover with another sheet of filo pastry and brush lightly with olive oil. Repeat until all the sheets of filo pastry have been used. Tuck in the edges of the filo pastry. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top, then bake in a preheated 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4 oven for 40–45 minutes or until the top is golden. Remove from the oven, unclip the tin and serve hot.
*Paola Gavin is an acclaimed food writer and has previously published three books: Mediterranean Vegetarian Cooking, Italian Vegetarian Cooking, and French Vegetarian Cooking. She has spent many years living and traveling abroad, especially in the US, Canada, Greece, France, and Italy.