About Jennifer F. AbadiJennifer Felicia Abadi wrote and illustrated her cookbook-memoir, A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes from Grandma's Fritzie's Kitchen , and is currently working on her second book, Writing Your Family Cookbook: A How-To-Guide for Preserving Your Family's Unique Culinary Heritage . She caters for special occasions, and bakes for Kiva Cafe in New York City.
Reprinted with permission from A Fistful of Lentils (Harvard Common Press).
In Syria, lentils play a large role in basic cooking. They are inexpensive, easy to prepare, and a good source of nutrition. It is a legend that the Jews in Sinai were given lentils by Moses to help them endure their long exodus from Egypt. Addes is a thick, golden soup spiced with garlic and cumin and served with fresh lemon wedges. It's hearty, like pea soup, and will provide just the right source of energy to get you through a cold winter's day.
Kubbeh, or kibbeh, is the noun based on the Arabic verb “to form into a ball or circular shape.” Kibbeh nabilseeyah is bulgur wheat fashioned into a torpedo shape, stuffed, and then fried in oil; it is one of the hardest Syrian appetizers to prepare. Its reputation for difficulty is so widespread that it makes even the best cooks irrationally nervous! A special appetizer for a gala occasion, these “torpedoes” require time and patience. But when you’re rewarded with blissful sighs as each guest bites through the crisp, cumin-scented crust into the aromatic filling, you’ll be glad you went the extra mile.To add an authentic touch, serve with fresh lemon wedges; the juice should be squeezed onto each bite until the torpedo disappears. Add pomegranate seeds to the meat mixture and you’ll pass as a native. If doing these pastries scares you off (as it did Grandma Fritzie) but you still want to impress your guests, try the “alternative” bulgur wheat pie [see variations]. Follow the same basic guidelines below when stuffing and frying the dough for all three variations.