By Bill Daley, Tribune Newspapers
The Passover Seder offers a ritualized retelling of how the Israelites were delivered from bondage in Egypt. Even today, more than 3,000 years later, it's quite a story.
There's also quite a story behind a new kosher cookbook, "Persian Food from the Non-Persian Bride" (Feldheim, $34.99), whose subtitle promises "And Other Kosher Sephardic Recipes You Will Love!"
The author is Reyna Simnegar, a mother of five boys ages 2 to 9 living in Brookline, Mass., whose Persian husband loves real Persian cooking.
Her family can trace its history to the Spanish Inquisition, from which her ancestors fled and eventually settled in Venezuela. She discovered at age 12 that her family was anusim — Jews who had been forcibly converted but secretly practiced Judaism at home.
Simnegar began becoming a religiously observant Jew when she turned 18. She met her future husband, who is Jewish and was born in Shiraz, Iran, while working at a Taco Bell on the campus of UCLA, where she was studying interior design.
Knowing that a marriage wouldn't happen if she couldn't whip up his idea of home cooking, she took a crash-course in Persian cooking from her future mother-in-law. Inspiration for the book came from the fear she'd have to teach five daughters-in-law how to cook Persian and from friends who kept asking her for Persian recipes.
All the recipes in the book are Kosher.
Consider the recipe here for cucumber salad with dill and shallots. The dish was an "emergency Pesach salad that I had to make up in a jiffy,'' Simnegar writes. "It tasted so good and my in-laws liked it so much I decided to share it."
Cucumber salad with dill and shallots
Note: This dish contains mustard, which is considered kitniyos — a category of food not eaten by Ashekenazic Jews during Passover but acceptable to Sephardic Jews.
Peel 3 English cucumbers (or regular cucumbers); halve lengthwise. Scrape out seeds.
Cut into 1/2-inch slices. Mix in a bowl with 1 finely sliced shallot, 1 chopped avocado and 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill. (If not serving right away, toss with lime juice to prevent avocado from discoloring).
For dressing, combine 1/4 cup each olive oil and mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and juice of 1 lime. Dress salad just before serving.
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