Cook: Torah, tapas, tunes: a night to remember

Torah, tapas and song — an unlikely combination, to be sure. Here’s how they came together in a wonderful fundraiser at my synagogue, Kol Emeth in Palo Alto.

Torah: Kol Emeth acquired a Sephardic Torah that may be well over 150 years old. The Torah, on permanent loan, cannot be used because it is considered not kosher due to missing letters, torn edges, etc. It can be restored by a scribe for a fee, raised through  donations to the Torah fund.

Tapas: As we strolled into the courtyard, platters of these small plates were passed around. Kol hakovod to Audra Vaisbort, our community connections manager, for preparing this feast and supplying the recipes.

Song: We moved into the sanctuary to hear Kat Parra sing melodious, soulful Ladino songs (the language of Sephardic Jews combining Hebrew and Spanish) telling of unrequited love and loss (see story, 25). We then had the privilege of viewing the ancient Torah  to conclude this sweet evening of Spanish and Jewish culture.


Empanada Dough

Makes about 10 (6-inch) empanadas

1⁄2 cup cold water

1 egg

1 egg white

1 tsp. vinegar

3 cups flour (plus a little more for kneading)

1 tsp. salt

3 Tbs. shortening

In a bowl, beat water, egg, egg white and vinegar together. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix flour and salt together. Cut shortening into flour mix with a pastry blender or two butter knives. Make a well in the center of flour mix and pour liquid ingredients from the first bowl into the center.

Mix wet and dry ingredients with a fork until dough becomes stiff. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it just until all the flour is incorporated and dough is smooth. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (but not more than 24 hours).

After rolling out dough to about 1⁄8-inch thickness, use small bowl or top of large empty can to cut out empanada circles. If the edge is not sharp enough, use a pizza cutter around the outside edge.


Onion and Mozzarella Empanada Filling

For 2 dozen empanadas

2 Tbs. canola oil

2 Tbs. butter

4 onions, very thinly sliced

salt and pepper to taste

1⁄2 tsp. oregano

2 cups shredded mozzarella        

Heat canola oil and butter in a large sauté pan. Add onions and sauté until soft but not brown. Add salt, pepper and oregano. Continue to cook to reduce any liquid; drain if necessary. Let mixture cool while rolling out empanada dough.

Take an empanada dough circle and cup it in the palm of your hand. Add onion mix and some cheese; pull up dough edges and pinch to close. Lay each empanada on its side and use fork tines to imprint lines at edges.

Place on greased and floured baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.


Papas Bravas

Serves 6

1⁄4 cup olive oil for sautéing (approx.)

1 medium onion, chopped

1⁄2 green bell pepper, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups potatoes, washed and cut in medium cubes

salt and black pepper to taste

1 Tbs. parsley

2 Tbs. paprika

On low-medium heat in a large sauté pan, sauté olive oil, onions and bell pepper until onions get soft. Add garlic and potatoes and toss to coat well.  Lightly salt and pepper; adjusting seasoning after potatoes get tender and you can taste them.

Sprinkle paprika, cover and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and let simmer. The dish is done when the potatoes are fork-tender, approximately 30-45 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve hot.

Louise Fiszer
is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Faith Kramer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].