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Aromas Of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews [Hardcover]

Poopa Dweck
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Aug. 9 2007

When the Aleppian Jewish community migrated from the ancient city of Aleppo in historic Syria and settled in New York and Latin American cities in the early 20th century, it brought its rich cuisine and vibrant culture. Most Syrian recipes and traditions, however, were not written down and existed only in the minds of older generations. Poopa Dweck, a first generation Syrian–Jewish American, has devoted much of her life to preserving and celebrating her community's centuries–old legacy.

Dweck relates the history and culture of her community through its extraordinary cuisine, offering more than 180 exciting ethnic recipes with tantalizing photos and describing the unique customs that the Aleppian Jewish community observes during holidays and lifecycle events. Among the irresistible recipes are:


•Bazargan–Tangy Tamarind Bulgur Salad


•Shurbat Addes–Hearty Red Lentil Soup with Garlic and Coriander


•Kibbeh–Stuffed Syrian Meatballs with Ground Rice


•Samak b'Batata–Baked Middle Eastern Whole Fish with Potatoes


•Sambousak–Buttery Cheese–Filled Sesame Pastries


•Eras bi'Ajweh–Date–Filled Crescents


•Chai Na'na–Refreshing Mint Tea

Like mainstream Middle Eastern cuisines, Aleppian Jewish dishes are alive with flavor and healthful ingredients–featuring whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and olive oil–but with their own distinct cultural influences. In Aromas of Aleppo, cooks will discover the best of Poopa Dweck's recipes, which gracefully combine Mediterranean and Levantine influences, and range from small delights (or maza) to daily meals and regal holiday feasts–such as the twelve–course Passover seder.


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Review

“The intriguing recipes inspired me to head for my kitchen, but the story kept me in my chair, riveted.” (New York Times)

“Poopa Dweck has put together such a wonderful collection of delicious recipes.” (Claudia Roden, author of The New Book of Middle Eastern Food and The Book of Jewish Food)

“Aromas of Aleppo is as enticing to read through as to cook from.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“[Poopa Dweck] has made it her task to preserve their venerable cuisine in its fullness.” (Los Angeles Times)

“The large-format book could be relegated to the coffee table but won’t be.” (Chicago Tribune)

“Tinged with the bittersweet memories of a community that lovingly upholds table traditions of the city that evicted all its members.” (New York Sun)

WINNER OF THE JEWISH NATIONAL BOOK AWARD (No Source)

About the Author

Poopa Dweck is an expert on Aleppian Jewish cookery and the creator of Deal Delights cookbooks. A highly active community leader, she frequently lectures and performs cooking demonstrations. She is also the founder of the Jesse Dweck City Learning Center and Daughters of Sarah and the cofounder of the Sephardic Women’s Organization. Dweck lives in Deal, New Jersey, with her husband, and has five children.


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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Outstanding! A 'Wow'! Aug. 9 2008
By S. Bart
Format:Hardcover
I recently purchased this book after discovering it on Amazon.com and reading the wealth of positive customer reviews. This book is not only a beautiful coffee table book, but the recipes I've tried so far (about 9) were simple and turned out absolutely delicious. Of note, I already had a wonderful recipe for Basbusa, but the one in this book tasted far superior! It was the best I've ever tasted. I ad libbed and added just before serving; sliced strawberries, frozen vanilla yogurt and a splach of Soho liqueur (Lychee flavoured). The Mujedrah (rice and brown lentils with caramelized onions) was so simple, yet the flavours were superb - better than others I've tasted. One of my new favorites is the Keftes (Tamarind-stewed meatballs). This is so simple and quick to make, yet so delicious.

The photos and explanations given in this book are superb. The stories and history Ms. Dweck shares of her family and the Syrian Jews make this extraordinary book even more remarkable. I pick this book up over and over again for both the history, customs and cultural information as well as for new recipe ideas.

I also own Claudia Roden's 'The Book of Jewish Food' and noted that both Ms. Dweck and Ms. Roden seem to share the same family name (Phonetically). Ms. Roden's family originates also from Aleppo and the family name is 'Douek'. Although spelled differently, the pronunciation is the same. Perhaps these two great ladies of culinary writing and expertise are related?

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in expanding their cooking experience and library.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  78 reviews
53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recipes need tweaking Dec 31 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Overall, a great effort. The author is clearly familiar with the traditions and customs of the Syrian Jewish community,and her research is very thorough. I would give this part of the book 5 stars. As a member of this community presently serving in the military, it's great to have this book as a resource to prepare dishes for my family when they come to visit.

From a recipe perspective, however, this book is far from perfect, and rates a 3. I consider myself a cook and baker of considerable experience, and after making many recipes from this book, I found I had to stick post-its on many pages with notes such as "too much salt", or "had too much filling left over." It's a bit annoying to follow a recipe to the nth degree and discover you had enough meat left over after making the miniature tamarnid mincemeat pies for a whole other batch, or had enough date filling left after making the date-filled crescents to make another 2 dozen cookies (which I did, by making 1/2 of the dough recipe). I also question some of the ingredient quantities in several recipes - 4 cloves of raw garlic to make a small batch of hummus (15 oz can or fresh equivalent) is too much for even the most ardent garlic lover! I had to make another batch of hummus minus the garlic and add it to the first batch to make it edible.

Several glaring misteps such as these make me wonder if the author actually knows how much of an ingredient should go in a recipe, or if she mostly cooks from experience and does not follow written recipes. Many women who have been cooking for years do this, but when you're writing a cookbook, accuracy is critical.

I'm glad to have this book and it sits prominently on a stand in my kitchen - I just keep my post-it pad handy.
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Wonderful Oct. 30 2007
By M. D. Thomas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is an incredible journy through a cusine and a culture. I love Middle Eastern Food and purchased this book to compare the Syrian Recipes to the Lebanese Recipes that I had grown up wiht. This book provided much more. A wonderful inside look at the Jewish Culture in Aleppo. The recipes are delicious (not much different than what I grew up with, except followng Kosher Laws) and easy to follow. The book has beautiful photography and now sits out in my kitchen counter. A must read for anyone interested in Middle Eastern Foods and cultures.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gift from above! Nov. 2 2007
By Rabbi Style - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Growing up in a Syrian community, but marrying a non-Syrian has made it real difficult for a guy like me. Especially since I don't live in the community anymore. I've always missed our traditional foods, but couldn't get the recipes. Then this book came out in time for the chagim! So far, all the recipes that we've made are delicious, just like the best maza out there! If you like Syrian foods, this is really going to put a smile on your face!
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding Scope, Beauty, and Execution Sept. 19 2007
By Richard A. Warshak - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
An extraordinary volume of a truly unique and exotic cuisine. This is by far the most beautiful cookbook I have seen - beautiful in appearance, and in spirit. Dweck reveals the secrets of Syrian-Jewish dishes in her time-tested recipes that will leave you and your guests wanting more. The exquisite images make your mouth water. Beyond the recipes and photographs, the book is a great read with Dweck's generous commentary on the ties between food and the cultural traditions of her community. The entire package is top-notch and destined to be the classic volume on this savory cuisine. No food lover should be without it. When not being used in the kitchen, this gorgeous work will be on your coffee table. A magnificent achievement, astounding in its scope, beauty, and execution.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tell me what you eat...I'll tell you who you are.... June 23 2008
By Holly Chase - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The exploration of culinary culture is one of the most effective ways to awaken the uninitiated to both the complexities of other societies and the possibilities for fruitful interaction with them.

What do most Americans know of Aleppo, a settlement founded several millennia BCE and continuously inhabited ever since? Not nearly enough. Also known as Halab, Halep, Alep... the city lies in what is now northern Syria. Jews, Muslims, and Christians have long mingled in what was a provincial capital of the Ottoman Empire. Until recently, in this polyglot and multi-ethnic city, a cultural rival of Damascus, one could find residents representing most of the faiths and ethnic groups of the Near East and eastern Mediterranean.

Surrounded by pasturage supporting flocks and agricultural land yielding nuts, wheat, and olives, the city was a stop for the caravans bringing silk and spices from farther east. Given the ingredients at hand, it is no surprise that the inhabitants of Aleppo expressed themselves as much in the kitchen as they did in the city's esteemed metal, glass, and textile workshops. Aleppo, with its population of Arabs, Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Greeks and other Europeans has long been renowned for the variety and sophistication of its food.

Through their research and documentation of the rich social, spiritual, and gastronomic textures of Aleppo's Sephardic community, Poopa Dweck and Michael J. Cohen have succeeded admirably in presenting and preserving a culture through food.

Sadly, most of Aleppo's specifically Jewish dishes are now to be found only in the diaspora of Aleppian Jewery. Middle Eastern political tensions over the past 60 years have caused virtually the entire community of Syrian Jews to emigrate. Aleppian Jews are scattered from London to Latin America. In the US, where large communities reside in Brooklyn, NY and New Jersey, they, like immigrants before them, live amidst other ethnic and religious groups, and use food to maintain their distinct identity. And what food!

While one cannot claim that a Druse, Armenian, Turkish Sufi, or Maronite Christian would never serve roast chicken with lamb-stuffed eggplant or that only a Jew would make a bulgur and walnut salad with tamarind extract, the ingredients and techniques of such dishes drop big hints and speak volumes about communal identity. And that's most evident in the recipes reflecting kashrut, Jewish dietary law, to which the Aleppian community is strictly adherent. Thus, the rice dishes rich with sheep's milk butter won't be prepared by observant Jews if they are serving their pilaf with meat; Aleppian Jews would make theirs with vegetable oil.

There's a wealth of general Middle Eastern culinary information here: well-photographed and detailed instructions for making string cheese with nigella seeds and recipes for candied eggplants with cloves, pistachio-studded Turkish delight, and sesame halvah. In both Syria and the US, most Aleppians would never make these things at home, but would buy them from specialty shops. Apparently the authors are leaving nothing to chance: they've seen their parents' generation leave home, and that's enough to make them meticulously list and document what the immigrants managed to bring with them.

Some dishes, like sliha, a concoction of wheatberries with pomegranate seeds, nuts, and coconut served to celebrate a baby's first tooth, are occasion-specific. Arcane, but easily made, it's safe to say that sliha is probably something that would be lost were it not for the efforts of the authors.

The production values of this hefty tome are exceptional. With its lush graphics, fascinating archival photos, and luxurious contemporary food styling, the book is--in a word--gorgeous.

For many, the very idea of Syrian Jewish food may seem recherché, but the recipes, simple and clearly written, yield extraordinary results.

Syrian or not, Jew or gentile, for anyone who seeks to learn more about the Middle East and its culinary legacy, this would be a wonderful present.

Through what has clearly been a labor of love, Poopa Dweck and Michael Cohen have created something of permanent value, not only to their community, but to anyone who knows--or wants to learn--the power of sharing food. And if our world ever needed that power, it needs it now.

With the fragrances of garlic, mint, lemon, saffron, allspice, and rose water--Aromas of Aleppo could literally bring a lot of people to their senses.

holly (at) hollychase (dot) com
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