There are many different expressions of a people’s culture: their history, poetry, literature, tradition and heritage. In addition to all of those, there is one that we must include, and that is a people’s food culture. The uniqueness of a people within the world community can be measured by the way they bequeath their special tastes onto the wider world.
We Israelite Samaritans have a unique experience through a long, tumultuous past spanning thousands of years. We still carry out the same annual festivals, as well as visits to holy places during days of happiness and days of mourning. Our days of flourishing and good fortune, as well as days of withering, all in the Land of Israel, give us continued hope that we will last forever.
One of the most important parts of Samaritan identity is our special cuisine delivered by our ancient forefathers – from the days when the menu and ingredients were quite sparse, to the days that it became enriched with hundreds of different kinds of spices and dishes. From this extensive kitchen, we have selected a few dozen of the best dishes, all of them an expression of over 3,000 years of Israelite history. These dishes are influenced by this narrow strip of land in the Levant that connects the cultures of Africa, Asia, and Europe – with a special Samaritan touch.
The wonders and aromas of the Samaritan kitchen arise from the pages of this cookbook. Some of the dishes are Israelite, others are uniquely Samaritan, and a portion are imported dishes from other food cultures. The tastes crystallized to make all those who eat them lick their fingers at the end of each meal.
There are readers who will note that some of the dishes that grace these pages can also be tasted in the Palestinian kitchen. That culinary tradition developed from the same roots as the ancient Israelite kitchen. The commonalities that exist between the two can be expressed in two words: very tasty!
Our food relies heavily on fresh ingredients. Fresh foods and vegetables from the fields and the garden: chicken, turkey, sheep, cattle, kosher fish, baked goods, dairy and cheese dishes, and preserved vegetables. All of these come fresh from the market, never frozen, but directly from the hands of the butcher and farmer to the kitchen, and from there to the table.
The manuscript of the original Hebrew version of this book was written by two sisters; my late mother Batia bat Yefet Tsedaka and Zippora Sassoni Tsedaka, both career educators who also raised glorious families. We have edited and arranged the recipes in order to more easily impart upon the world these special Samaritan dishes.
Batia Tsedaka left our world on on April 20, 2010. The original Hebrew version was presented to the members of the Samaritan community on the first anniversary of her passing during Passover 2011. The goal then – and now – is for the book to be used in every Samaritan household and far beyond. Thanks to Professor Steven Fine and the Yeshiva University Israelite Samaritans Project for helping us to realize that dream.
The Samaritan Cookbook is dedicated to enshrining the progressive status of all Samaritan women, including the 23 Samaritan women who contributed their best tasting recipes and enthuse the palate with their wonderful dishes. I would like to express my deep gratitude and respect as the primary author.
2 lbs flour
4 tbsp sugar
4 oz. raisins
Pinch of salt
¼ cup oil
2 cups water
Roasted sesame seeds
1 tsp rum
1 tsp milk powder
1 tsp gum arabic
2 oz. yeast
Add the flour, salt, sugar, gum arabic, and raisins to a bowl and mix them up. Put the yeast in a half-cup of water and let moisten. In the middle of the bowl, make an indent, where you should place two eggs, oil, and the yeast. Mix this up until the dough becomes smooth and malleable. If needed, add a little bit of water. Cover with a few drops of oil and then cover the bowl.
Let the dough expand for a few hours until it doubles in size. Once this happens, softly knead the dough and let it expand again. After it fully expands, move the dough to the countertop and divide it into 3 equal pieces. From each piece, make 9 rolled strips that are 8-10 inches long and
whose ends are thinner than the middles. Now take 3 strips and make a braid out of them like this: Place the three strips side-by-side and braid them together from the middle to the other side. Repeat this with the rest of the sets of strips to make 3 challot.
Place on a baking pan that has been covered by a baking sheet (or in smaller aluminum baking trays for each challah). Wait for the dough to expand one more time. In a small bowl, place the yolk of the 2 remaining eggs, add the rum, and whisk. With a baking brush, spread the egg-rum mix over the dough and sprinkle on the roasted sesame seeds. Bake in an oven at medium heat for 30-40 minutes or until the challot start to brown. Then you’ll be ready to serve them up!
Praise for Samaritan Cookbook
“Benyamim Tsedaka’s Samaritan Cookbook is a love letter to his people and his culture. Illustrated with gorgeous photographs and filled with Samaritan recipes preserved within the author’s family, this volume is a true tour de force that successfully invites readers into the Samaritan world and makes them feel like honored and welcome guests.”
—Martin S. Cohen, Rabbi, Shelter Rock Jewish Center, Roslyn, New York
“Being raised in the Amish culture I understand the importance of a cultural cookbook. Every Amish Mennonite home had a copy of the ‘Mennonite Cookbook.’ The Samaritan Cookbook is not just a book of recipes but a touchstone that reaches back centuries to the way things were prepared in biblical times. The addition of the touching photographs, descriptions of traditions, and historical facts makes this an excellent and tasty reference to the beautiful and ancient land of the Samaritan people.”
—Anne Beiler, founder of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels