Sweet Fried Eggplants

Sephardi: Cooking the History, Hélène Jawhara Piñer’s 2021 cookbook, delves deep into Jewish history to illuminate dishes that were once prepared in times fraught with anti-Semitism: food was a way to reveal and preserve Jewish identity. This recipe for Sweet Fried Eggplants is excerpted from the book with the author’s kind permission.

Eggplants and Sephardim have become a true culinary love story. There are so many eggplant dishes consumed by Sephardic Jews from Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Morocco, and more, that a single book would not be enough to present. One interesting story about this is from Juan de León (aka Salomón Machorro): In 1646, while imprisoned in Mexico, he would ask the jailers for “two honeyed dishes” to break the fast, which he observed with his fellow prisoner Francisco Botello on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This would have been an eggplant-based dish very similar to the one below.

Nowadays, eggplant dishes are traditionally prepared to break the fast in Jewish communities: here, I propose a sweet dish I particularly like and still eat in Andalusia.

Sweet Fried Eggplants Recipe

INGREDIENTS

2 medium eggplants
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (100 g) olive oil for frying
1 tsp salt
1/8 cup (20 g) honey

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Wash the eggplants. Cut them into slices a finger wide. Sprinkle them with salt and let them drain for 20 minutes.
  2. Pour the olive oil into a frying pan and heat over medium-high heat.
  3. Coat the eggplants in the flour and tap them on the edge of a plate (not with your fingers) to remove excess. Place the eggplant slices in the pan without overlapping them. Fry for 5 minutes over medium heat without moving them so that they brown.
  4. Gently turn them over and cook for 5 minutes on the other side.
  5. Place the fried slices on a large plate. Add a little salt if necessary, and pour a drizzle of honey over it.

Cook with Hélène Jawhara Piñer:

Ifseng

Also called sfenğ, this fried pastry is common among Jews and Muslims especially in Morocco and Israel. It is also calledesponja (“sponge”) in Spanish, a word derived from the Arabic term sjenğ of the same meaning. The recipe dates back to the thirteenth century, when this and similar dishes were popular in al-Andalus.

Tortitas de Acelga

Piñer’s Tortitas de Acelga recipe combines some of the main ingredients of Sephardic cuisine from Spain: Swiss chard, eggs, garlic, and olive oil. This perfect Passover dish uses chickpea flour.

Makrūt and Neulas Encanonadas

Maqrūt is another type of fried honey pastry typical to Jews and Muslims from Morocco, and this recipe dates back to thirteenth-century al-Andalus. These tasty pastries flavored with honey and dates are now associated with the holidays: Muslims eat maqrūṭ when breaking the fast of Ramadan, and Sephardim of Morocco and France eat them for Rosh Hashana.

And a special Hanukkah 75 cocktail from TABLE Magazine!

Sephardi: Cooking the History can be purchased through your favorite bookstore or online. For the rest of our article on Sephardi, click here.

Story by Maggie Weaver / Photography by Scott Goldsmith/ Styling by Keith Recker / Food by Veda Sankaran

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