Between Jews and eggplant, it has always been a love story. Even more for Sephardim. Eggplant was so often cooked by Spanish Jewish families that it became an identity sign of their culinary practices, to the extent that it was used in the Inquisition trials to denounce crypto Jews. There was so much love between this foodstuff and Judaism, as we can note in literary, poetic, culinary, and judicial sources, and yet sometimes in the complex context of the 13th century and even more so during the Inquisition the light did not enter easily to their houses.
The same happened with olive oil used by Spanish Jews to prepare their dishes in the late Middle Ages. Olive oil was assimilated to culinary Jewish practices, at the point that in the 15th century, the city of Seville was known and denounced as a city of Jews because of its smell of olive oil.
This year for Hanukkah, let’s brighten our cuisine with these two essential foodstuffs. For this reason, I offer a recipe of my own, based on my research -- a recipe where the olive oil in which we fry the eggplant plays the main role. It consists of golden slices of fried eggplant, with cheese sitting on its top, sprinkled with ancient herbs, over which we will pour a trickle of honey. I hope you will enjoy it and it will let the light brighten your kitchen.
Chag Hanukkah Sameach !
Ingredients: 2 medium eggplants 1 clove of garlic Salt Vinegar Cheese (like feta or kashkaval) Savory Thyme Olive oil Honey
Instructions: 1. Slice the eggplant and slice it. You can peel it before if you prefer. 2. Boil them for 3 minutes in salted boiling water. Set aside in an absorbent sheet of paper. 3. In a frying pan, put olive oil. Cut the clove of garlic in very small pieces and fry slowly until it is golden. Add salt and 1 or 2 vinegar drops over each slice. 4. Add the slices of eggplant and fry until they are golden. Do not move them a lot because they are very fragile. Take a plate, put a slice and add a spoonful of cheese. Sprinkle with herbs. 5. Pour a trickle of honey 6. Eat without waiting because it is better if it is consumed lukewarm.
Hélène Jawhara-Piñer is a PhD in History, Medieval History, History of Food at the University of Tours (France). She has been award the Broome & Allen Fellowship from the American Sephardi Federation in 2018, dedicated to recognizing impressive academic accomplishments and service on behalf of the Sephardic community, as well as encouraging continued excellence in the field of Sephardi Studies. As a member of the Research Center CESR in Tours (France), and of the IEHCA (Institute of European History and Cultures of Food), her research interests are the medieval culinary history of Spain through interculturality with a special focus on the Jewish culinary heritage written in Arabic.