Chef Jim Solomon, owner of the Boston restaurant, The Fireplace, likes to stir the pot. The award-winning Jewish chef’s recipe for “Spanish Inquisition Remembered” is a boldly named new twist on a centuries-old Spanish chickpea-based stew known as cocido, that will spice up the Purim menu and the conversation around the Purim dinner table.
Rich in flavor, the cocido is perfect for Purim, a holiday that is filled with masked meaning, charade, and customs and cuisine that reveal more than they appear on the surface. Solomon developed this recipe for Beyond Bubbe’s Kitchen, a Jewish food event that was produced by the Jewish Arts Collaborative, a Boston-based Jewish arts and cultural organization.
The cocido, a common Spanish chickpea-based stew dates back to the 15th century, he found. It’s a simple stew and varied across regions and was also prepared with meat. Solomon was delighted to discover that the dish, often prepared in the winter, was commonly eaten by Jews for Purim.
Non-Jewish Spaniards added pork to the stew. In the time of the Spanish Inquisition, Jews who were hiding their identity were known to have eaten pork to mask their faith, Solomon found.
Jewish cooking authority Joan Nathan elaborated on the origins of the Sephardic version of the cocido and its relation to Purim. The long-simmering stew, often cooked overnight in ovens, was a variation of the a cholent known as adafina. It may have included lamb or goat, sometimes barley or bulgur, said Nathan. Christian Spaniards added sausage. “Jews like to think it was Jewish, but everyone ate it,” said Nathan.
“Chickpeas are known as a Purim dish,” Nathan observed. Many believe that in the story retold in The Book of Esther, read on Purim, that Queen Esther ate a vegetarian diet while living in the palace of King Ahasverus in order to follow the rules of kashrut. This led to the custom of eating beans and peas at Purim, she has found.
Solomon’s “Spanish Inquisition Remembered” dish is a garlicky cocido with garbanzo and spinach served over couscous with parsley. The flavorful stew is spiced with smoked and Hungarian paprika, cumin and cayenne. He improvised a paste of toasted Marcona almonds and sour dough bread cubes that adds a robust depth to the flavor-rich stew.
But Solomon had more in mind than creating a mouth-watering contemporary version of the Sephardic stew. “The whole idea for drawing inspiration for a dish from the time of the Inquisition was to be provocative,” he acknowledged. One parallel with Purim was the evil plan of Haman to kill the Jews of ancient Persia, he said. But he also wanted to bring together Purim’s themes of religious persecution, the Inquisition, hidden identities, the Sephardic cocido and today’s political climate.
“I wanted to highlight the similarities to [President] Trump’s intention to ban and expel vast numbers of Muslims and other immigrants,” he explained. “While my dish is a simple, traditional Spanish cocido, it has the hidden meaning of being a political statement about is happening in America today.”
It’s an invitation to a thought-provoking, delicious meal.