Archive for the ‘Demos and Media’ Category

Iranian American Jewish Federation Luncheon

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

I felt incredibly honored to have been present at this amazing Luncheon. After all, one of the reasons I wrote this cookbook was to precisely share it with the next generation of Persian Jews…what better place to feature it than at the Iranian American Jewish Federation? Right?

This is the stunning home where the event took place…Ben Porat Yosef!

However, I have to admit part of me was scared. The event was in Beverly Hills (which by the way is more than 50% Persian…even the Mayor of BH is Persian)…did I even have a big enough engagement ring to fit in?! When I arrived I realized most of the ladies were middle-aged ladies…although they all looked a lot younger (more on that later). My first thought was, Persian women don’t need my cookbook! These ladies are probably all amazing cooks! Well, needless to say, I was a little nervous. Not to mention the luncheon was made of, yep you guessed it, Persian food! I was also running late, the event had already started and they wanted me to speak…in front of all these ladies (more than 100 women) Yikes!

 

It was so hot I honestly would not have minded accidentally falling into this pool!

All I could hear was Farsi everywhere. All I could see was Chanel and Hermes. Fortunately I had my savior with me! My mother-in-law! She navigated all the Persian bureaucracy for me and I felt so much better. We waited until two speakers were done giving their thoughts…one of them was a plastic surgeon…yes, I know. The other was a psychologist …yes, I know that too. And then it was my turn. All those eyes on me! How was I to sell a book to these women filled with the food they already know how to cook?! I needed a miracle! Fortunately, my proceeds from the book are going to charity; that always helps. However, what they liked the most was the chapter in Persian Jewish Holidays…even these accomplished cooks wanted that ingredient! How do Persians celebrate and maintain vibrant their Persian Jewish Heritage? How do we pass it on to our children? Will we be blessed to see our great grandchildren saying Kiddush Friday nights and eating gondy?

Recipes for all these rices are in my cookbook! I feel like licking the computer screen!

In retrospect, I now realize that it doesn’t matter how much you know Persian food. It doesn’t matter how delicious and lavish your food is…when you are a Persian Jew what makes the food special is its purpose. What are you making gondy for? Is it for Shabbat? Then is has served its purpose! Same for all the other lavish Kosher Persian dishes out there…when they are served in the honor of a holiday or even to honor someone special they have all served their purpose.

This presentation is so Persian! Yum!

After my short address I was amazed at how excited these ladies were about the cookbook! I think they liked me even better than the plastic surgeon! So many of them came to me and hugged me and thanked me…I felt so overwhelmed that just writing about it brings tears to my eyes! All of the sudden, my fears were gone! They were all so nice, so normal, so incredibly stunning inside and out! We were speaking the same language, we were wearing the same clothes, we all had the same old bling…we were all Jewish mothers focused on one goal…our eternal nation!

 

From the bottom if my heart I wish every single one of them countless pride from all their descendants! I wish to extend my most sincere gratitude to Farzaneh Farnoush, Jilla Yousefi, and Shahla Javdan not only for having me over but also for making a difference with IAJF. Last, thanks for the best mother-in-law in the world, Shahla Simnegar.

Nushejan!

This is my lovely mother-in-law…thank you!

My first Cookbook signing (behind the scenes)

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

I am super excited to share with you what it feels like to be an author at a book signing! After all, how many of us really get to this stage in our lives?

My first ever book signing was scheduled to be on a pretty Sunday with unlikely phenomenal weather. It was hosted at 1pm at the Israel Book Shop in Brookline, MA. This made me very happy because I really wanted my kids to be part of it. My husband and I had the perfect plan. We would go for lunch at Rami’s (the best falafel in Boston) with all the kids, and from there we would go to the book signing. I had packed snacks, extra wipes and diapers and a nifty black sharpie marker to make book signing a breeze!  I had this dream I would just seat there and my kids would seat next to me, looking up to mama and thinking wow. Of course, this was another one of those parenting dreams we parents like to orchestrate in our minds. The cruel, inescapable reality of real-life parenting followed.

The best husband in the world is mine! (Ben Porat Yosef)

We were super lucky to have had tables available at Rami’s. This place is so popular I was afraid we would not be able to seat. However, I do have to admit having the owner as a friend is a huge benefit (wink, wink). My kids are picky eaters, but there is one thing they all love: fries. We started with the ordering and you know how it goes…this one cries, this other one needs the bathroom, this other one wants more ketchup.  And of course, the inevitable LOUD tantrum occurred forcing us to make a quick exit with most food to go. To make a long, painful story short my dream of having a wonderful pre-book-signing lunch with my family ended up being a quickie lunch in the car with the kids strapped to their respective seats while being serenaded by the infamous uncle Moishy!

Well, if you think things got better after the kids were fed you are simply VERY wrong. When we got to the bookstore book-signing-nightmare part II began. The reality was my kids were running around the whole time, taking books out of the shelves and trying to snitch bazooka bubblegum from the register. My poor husband was going nuts keeping track of each kid all over the store while making sure my 2 year old didn’t break a ceramic menorah or hit one of his brothers with a Shabbat candelabra!

However, with all that said, I did have my moment of bliss. My oldest child came to me in the middle of all the commotion and told me he was proud of me! He is really one of my biggest fans! My dear husband quickly realized having the kids at the store was, well, a very stupid idea. He called my sister and, as always, she came to my recue. I am so lucky to have my relatives close by! Thank you sis!

Sephardim do not have Bedekins. For those of you who are not familiar with Orthodox Jewish weddings, a Bedekin is a formality performed before the wedding ceremony where the bride seats like a queen surrounded by her mother, mother-in-law and bridesmaids. Guests come to wish her a Mazel Tov and she graciously gives them a blessing.. After a while, the groom comes before the bride escorted by his friends, father and father-in-law. He approaches his bride, blesses her and puts her veil on. I always wanted to have a Bedekin! My first book signing turned out to be just like that! My friends came from here and there to wish me a Mazel Tov while I dedicated each cookbook with a shower of blessings to them.  And at the then end, just like a beautiful Ashkenazi Bedekin (involving a handsome Sephardic man) my husband came to get me. It was a magical moment I will never forget…even if it meant we both had to clean the mess my kids made at the Israel Book Shop!

Thank you all that came to see me that day. It really meant the world to me. I could not post everyone’s pics…but you are posted in my heart! If you want your pic removed just email me. LOVE YOU ALL!

Reyna

Passover Persian-style in BostonHerald.com

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Holiday delights from the ‘Non-Persian Bride’

SAVORY SEDER MENU: Reyna Simnegar shows off a variety of Passover dishes from her cookbook, including stuffed artichokes, haleg with matzoth and a veal stew.

On Passover, Reyna Simnegar and her family will enjoy a Persian Seder. Many of the dishes served will be out of Simnegar’s new cookbook, “Persian Food From the Non-Persian Bride” (Feldheim Publishers, $34.99).

Venezuelan by birth, Simnegar learned Persian cooking from her then-soon-to-be mother-in-law when she and her husband Sammy were students at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Persian cooking is romantic, it’s infatuating,” said Simnegar, welcoming a guest to her Brookline home. “Maybe it’s exotic for me because I’m not Persian but I find a lot of people feel the same way.”

What do you need to cook Persian?

“If you are going to be a non-Persian bride, you’ll need saffron, cardamom and turmeric in your pantry,” Simnegar said. “Sea salt, pepper, olive oil and maybe some grape-seed oil, which is really good for frying. Lamb, lots of eggplant, onion, fresh garlic, dill, cilantro, cinnamon, allspice, paprika.”

Rice is a big deal in Persian cuisine. It’s typically steamed in oil, which creates a lovely golden crust on the bottom of the saucepan.

“I always think of Persian rice as the fancy lady, the queen, because she needs all this pampering,” Simnegar said. “It’s very elegant, very fragile.”

Rice steamed with black-eyed peas and cabbage will be on the Simnegar table this Passover. Also on the menu — lamb stewed with prunes, veal stew with basil and parsley, stuffed artichokes, cucumber salad and almond brittle candy, a favorite of her mother-in-law’s.

Among the Persian traditions at the Simnegar Seder: The entire table is covered by a white sheet for the recitation of the 10 plagues to protect the meal from bad luck. Participants playfully hit each other with bunches of scallions during the singing of “Dayenu” to symbolize the whipping of the Hebrew slaves.

And the final matzoth of the night is eaten with the arm wrapped around the back of the head — a metaphor for the crooked path the Jews followed to their homeland.

This year, as in years past, Simnegar, her family and friends will gather around the long table in the dining room to celebrate Passover.

“The home has two hearts — the kitchen and the dining room,” she said. “My husband has a special chair, I have a special chair and each child has a special chair. The walls of the dining room hear a lot of words of Torah, a lot of words of friendship and camaraderie. It’s really important.”

For more information, go to kosherpersianfood.com.

Haleg (Persian charoset)
1 (6 oz.) package ground walnuts (1 1/2 c.)
1 (6 oz.) package ground almonds (1 1/2 c.)
1/2 c. pistachio nut meats, ground
1 c. date paste (available in Middle Eastern stores or make your own by pureeing dates in food processor)
1/2 c. raisins, ground
1/2 c. grape juice
1 banana, peeled and ground
1 apple, peeled and ground
2 T. charoset spice (available online or mix equal parts ground cardamom, ginger and cinnamon)

Grind together all the ingredients that do not come already ground. Then combine all ingredients very well.

Yield: 4 cups.

Lamb with Prunes Stew
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, pressed
3 T. olive oil
4 lbs. lamb stew meat, shoulder or neck, cut into cubes
1 c. water
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. ground saffron
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg or allspice
2 c. pitted prunes
2 t. cinnamon
1 T. honey (optional)
1 T. toasted sesame seeds (optional)

In a 6-quart saucepan, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until the onion starts to look translucent, about 1 minute. Add lamb; cover and cook until it no longer looks red, stirring occasionally. Add water, salt, pepper, saffron, ginger and nutmeg. Stir well. Return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes. Add prunes, cinnamon and honey, if using. Cover and simmer for 30 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Garnish with optional sesame seeds and serve.

Yield: 8-10 servings.

Slivered-Almond Brittle
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. canola oil
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. crushed saffron threads
1 c. slivered almonds
1/4 c. crushed pistachios

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour honey, oil and sugar into the middle of a small saucepan. The ingredients should form a small pyramid; make sure they do not touch the sides of the pan. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, uncovered. Reduce heat to medium and add saffron and almonds. Mix well. Simmer, uncovered, over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads 285 degrees. Remove from heat immediately and quickly spoon portions of the syrup (forming pools about 2 inches in diameter) onto prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle each portion with crushed pistachios. Allow to cool at room temperature for 20 minutes, or until hardened.

Yield: 14 pieces.

(Recipes from “Persian Food From the Non-Persian Bride.”)

Great radio interview with Henry Santoro-WFNX

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Persian cuisine ‘a dance of flavors on your tongue’

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

TV Show 10! News in Philly (behind the scenes)

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

What an incredible experience! I had never been in live television before. Even though I am currently filming episode 4 of my cooking show (stay tuned for more on that soon). I had never been so nervous before a camera in my entire life! I think it had to do with many factors. First it was live TV…no mistakes allowed. Second I was traveling by myself…which I later found to be a pleasure! And Third…well, whatever who says there has to be a third?

It all started with me waking up at 3am…yep. Of course I am way too vain to allow me to leave my home without looking perfect – to my standards that is. My taxi came at 4am and I left for my 5:30am flight. I usually fly very well, but there was a really loud vibration in the plain. I didn’t think much of it, until I overheard the flight attendants saying, “What is that vibration? I have been flying for 15 years and never heard something like that” the other says, “Me neither, let’s ask the pilot.” One of them phones the pilot and says to the other, “The pilot never heard anything like that either, I hope the airplane roof doesn’t detach.” That’s when I really started regretting not brining with me a flask filled with tequila! The pilot went on to let everyone know there was a problem with the plane and he was going to be directed to a shortcut to make it to Philly safe. I started saying Shema… Fortunately, we landed safely and I was very happy to get myself out of that machine asap.

 

Here is Bill…a really, really nice host!

Philly was freezing! OMG! And I didn’t wear boots because I wanted to have easy on-and-off shoes for security. The Taxi cab had no idea where channel 10! News was. I had to direct him using my cell phone’s GPS…yep, his GPS was broken! When finally got there, I was so early the place was closed. I found refuge in a building next door.

My phone rang. It was Bonnie. She was my food stylist for the segment. Bonnie is the nicest little lady anyone can imagine. You just want to adopt her and have her around all the time to make things easy and pretty for you. She is truly talented and unbelievable. Thank you Bonnie! She tells me on the phone NBC is letting her in. I made my way to the building and get to security. The building has more security than the white house. I was let in and taken to the stage. Everyone was SO nice. Immediately I could smell frying eggplant coming from the kitchen’s set. Bonnie was hard at work making me look good! I was escorted to the “green room” where two men sat. They were authors of a cool thriller that became a hit!  There were sweets, coffee, tea and many seats to make anyone comfortable. Out of the sudden, a bunch of really tall men came in. They were musicians. They had been playing a really nice song all along. They played it so many times that I almost knew it by heart. They were SO nice. The lead singer ended up being the famous John Waite. He has a very popular song in the 80s called “Missing you.” His guitarist was Kyle Cook from Match Box 20…such nice man! He loved it that I was raising 5 boys! He also has a few children. John Waite was promoting his new album “Rough and Tumble,”  the song they played was “If you ever get lonely”…such a nice song!

 

Absolutely lovely and delicious Bonnie…the best food stylist ever!

The channel’s make-up artist came in and powdered everyone…all the men! It was a room full of men and there was me. I am used to it, I am always with 6 men (5 kids and a husband). Fortunately, I am a makeup artists and didn’t need her help…also, I think I would have killed her if she touched me with that disgusting makeup brush after using it to brush all the men.

My turn came at 10:27 am. The person interviewing me, Bill, was super charming. It was easy to feel comfortable with such nice people. The audience was of about 50 people…all smiling and willing to learn.  I felt at home. The spot was 6 minutes; I felt it lasted about 30 seconds. I mostly schmoozed. If you want to see me cooking, you can click on my cooking videos. LOL!!

A pic with the talented John Waite. The last man on the far right is guitarrist Kyle Cook from Matchbox Twenty…a room full of boys and me…very much used to it because that is all I get at home every day!

It all ended too fast, but I was so happy because that meant I could see my dear cousin Aurirosa. My first cousin lives in Philly with her husband and cute little boys (3 boys) I guess boys run in the family because my sister also has only boys! I met her at this great restaurant called Max and David’s. The food was sublime! I had not seen her in more than 15 years and she looks as young and beautiful as my last memory of her. It was so much fun talking about our children and laughing at boy stuff. I love her.

Auri took me to the Omni Hotel where my next interview would happen. I got a chance to glance at the Liberty Bell from our car! Later on I rented a movie Auri recommended: National Treasure. What a great way to remember Philly!

The interview was going to be with Ralph C. It was 2 radio interviews. This man is like a living museum. His voice sounded like what I imagine G-d’s voice must sound like. He was so dignified. There is something very intriguing when a man acts dignified. I was charmed. By the way, he must have been at least 70 years old.

My beautiful cousin Aurirosa! It was super nice to catch up and talk about our boys!

The time flew by again. I took a cab to the airport and headed home. No broken plane this time! My absolutely delicious husband was waiting for me at the airport…absence really makes the heart grow founder! Don’t forget to look at the video below!

Keep tuned for more of my book touring adventures, and don’t forget to get the book! Happy Purim!!

Reyna

TV Appearance in Philadelphia (video)

Radio: Five Minute Food Focus by Gavriel Sanders

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

This was a quicky at The Five Minute Food Focus, hosted by Gavriel Sanders – an exclusive feature of the Nachum Segal Show, broadcasting to listeners in the New York City metro area on WSNR AM 620.   It was done 12/30/2010 and it was so much fun! Tune in if you’re local or catch the show on the live stream on www.nachumsegal.com!

Check out the segment here:
Five Minute Food Focus by Gavriel Sanders

Kosher Fest 2010!

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Kosher Fest…I have to say I was impressed! First of all, it was very well organized (they probably had Ashkenazi management –smiley face).  It was a short ride from NY City and easy parking.  The weather in NY was bliss!! The place was large and packed with many interesting vendors.  There were people from all walks of life including an Indian businessman I met in line and many Chassidic Jews wearing their long peot (or peos if you speak Yiddish).  My dear husband came with me (I still missed you Cheryl) and I met Ari Behar and Maier Cywk there! It felt like home!

Here I am with my dear husband.  Thank you darling for coming with me!

Here are Maier and Ari…so nice to see familiar faces!

I had made this plan and highlighted the booths I wanted to see (to avoid wasting my time) but then I did what I do when I go grocery shopping with a list…I still walked up and down every single aisle! First things first though, I went to the booth of the new super cool kosher bi-monthly magazine “Kosher Inspired.” I am very excited about it because I will be writing a column for them.  It will be all about exotic kosher food! Yikes! It is going to be fabulous! There I met with sweet Kim Amzallag and Estee Kafra! I got a copy of their introductory issue which is filled with tons of great Chanuka recipes and gorgeous pics.

Kim Rosenberg Amzallah, Director of Sales and Marketing for Kosher Inspired! Subscribe today!

As I am schmoozing with Kim and Estee I glance across the aisle to see my dream come true! There was a booth of people speaking Spanish and drinking Sangria! For a moment I thought I was in Spain! I walked over their booth (much like a zombie) and had a try…I was in heaven! The company is called Bodegas Sanviver and they are based in Madrid, Spain.  They make Kosher Sangria, Mojitos and Cabernet Sauvignon!  Both the Sangria and Mojitos are ready to drink (with alcohol already added) and all you have to add is fruit or mint leaves.  The vendors were really nice (considering between me and my husband drank a few mojiots and sangrias) and even gave me a bottle to take home! Yipee! THey are looking for distributors in the US, so if you know anyone please contact them…I need them!!

I decided to go back to the beginning and start walking my aisles! The first aisle had my favorite Kosher Chef…Susie Fishbein! I just love her! She is not only a great Chef but also she is such a nice person. She was promoting her new cookbook “Kosher by Design-Teens and twenty Somethings.” I can’t wait to get my copy autographed when she comes to Boston Tuesday November 16th.  Check out the Chabad at Chesnut Hill’s website and come to her cooking show!  Susie was seating at the booth for Kolatin…real Kosher gelatin.  Oh my Gosh was that gelatin good!  I had tons of it!

Susie Fishbein, author of the series “Kosher by Design”…coming to Boston November 16th!

Right across from Kolatin was a booth with nice paper goods…their name is King Zak Industries, INC. and they have just gorgeous paper goods.  However, if you have been to my house you know I don’t use paper…I love real dishes and the next set I am getting from a company called Carmona New York and Co.  Their booth was simply stunning! They make custom ceramic dishes that fit your needs!  There was another booth with stunning catering dishes called Chef field presentation.  You know I am getting some pieces from them too! This stuff is candy to my eyes! Talking about candy…there was candy planet…one of my favorite kosher candies…my kids love them too!

Beautiful paper goods from King Zak Industries, Inc.

I am a HUGE sweet tooth!

Carmona New York and Co. beautiful porcelain dishes custom made for your needs and taste!

In terms of food it was so much fun to meet Simon Nourmand from Galil.  He is also Persian and married a Non-Persian bride!  My husband and I were having so much fun talking about it with him.  I use many of their products in my recipes!  We also had a great time trying delicious couscous made with Osem products! I also met some great people that work at Nu Spice; they make spice mixes tailored to your taste! Very cool!

Here is my husband making sure the couscous had enough salt…jejeje!

I was trying to get a picture of my husband next to a gefilte fish log (obviously funny) but all the men with black hats had eaten it all! Instead we took a pic of the very Ashkenazi Aaron’s cold cuts…they were fantastic! However, not as fantastic as the spicy mini hotdogs made by Of Tov! DELISH! Garlic Expressions was there as well with their amazing dressing.  I use it everywhere in my kitchen!

Cold cuts…heated up a little and free…not fat free…but who cares?!

I was so luck y to be able to taste the delicious olive oil collection that Etz Hazait makes.  They taught me that, just like wine is tasted, so does olive oil.  These magnificent oils are looking for a distributor here in the US. Another great company looking for a distributor is Teelah, they make children’s vitamins (the ones that taste like gummy bears), cereals and pizza!  They have the Uncle Moishy license and his caricature all over their products…I think I am finally going to be able to feed my kids their vitamins!

Last but not least, let’s talk tequila!  Kah was amazing tequila with three irresistible choices: Blanco, Reposado and Anejo.  The best part was the bottles…they were a hit! I fell in love with their super cool bottle in the shape of a skull! Check it out!

Here is my husband…after many tequilas, mojitos and sangrias…totally himself, hugging some Chinese-wannabie dudes!

As you can see, I had a great time in Kosher Fest and I am in for next year! I will have to diet a week before because I must have gained 5 pounds that day…but it was worth it!  I hope you enjoyed this short (but sweet) review!

This was the nicest display…I love Russian eggs…taking about Russia, last Shabbat I took a shot of vodka thinking it was water…I could hardly breath after that!

Thank you for reading! I love to hear your comments…please show me you are reading this and having fun!

Have a great Shabbat!

Shabbat Shalom!

Reyna

Speaking for the Spa for Soul event this Thursday May 27th!!

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

I am so excited to share the story of my family with all of you at MetroWest Chabads, for more information click here.

Flier for Spa for the Soul event!