Hanukkah’s around the corner, which means we’re frying potato-kale latkes, yes, but also digging into Israeli editor and cookbook author’s latest work, Jewish Soul Food. A wide-reaching cuisine with influence from around the world, Jewish food should be a part of every home cook’s repertoire.
Al-bunduq means “hazelnut” in Arabic, and in Ladino, albondigas are small meatballs. One of the iconic dishes of Sephardic Jews and the epitome of Jerusalem cuisine, these tiny meatballs are always cooked in rich sauce. In this version, roasted eggplants and bell peppers add subtle smokiness and balance the acidity of the lemon juice and tomato paste.
- 3 medium eggplants
- 2 red bell peppers
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 pound ground beef or veal
- 2 slices white bread, without crusts, soaked in water and squeezed
- 2 eggs
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh herbs, such as parsley or cilantro, chopped
- 3 - 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, for frying
For the sauce:
- Place the eggplants on a rack over the open flame of the stove.
- Roast, turning occasionally, until the skins are charred and the flesh feels soft.
- The eggplants can also be roasted in a hot oven (450°F) under a broiler or over hot charcoals.
- Cool slightly to avoid burning your hands.
- Peel the eggplants, taking care to remove all bits of charred skin, or cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh.
- Transfer the flesh to a colander to drain, for an hour.
- Chop the flesh coarsely. Set aside.
- Place the bell peppers on a rack over the open flame of the stove or under a broiler and roast, turning occasionally, until the skins are charred.
- Transfer to a plastic container and close.
- Allow to cool (the skin will separate from the flesh).
- Peel the skins, remove the seeds and the membranes, and coarsely chop the flesh. Set aside.
For the meatballs:
- Combine the meat, bread, eggs, garlic, salt, pepper and herbs in a large bowl.
- Knead thoroughly with your hands and refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Wet your hands or rub them with oil and form meatballs the size of a walnut.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet.
- Add the meatballs and brown for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Shake the skillet to roll the meatballs in the oil.
- Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
- Save 2 tablespoons of the frying oil.
- In a large bowl, combine the reserved eggplants, reserved bell peppers, the garlic, lemon juice, sugar, salt, tomato paste, water and the reserved oil and mix well.
- Arrange the meatballs in one layer in a shallow ovenproof saucepan and pour the sauce over them.
- Bring to a boil on medium heat, cover, and transfer to the oven for 1 hour.
- Serve hot over rice or couscous.
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