Archive for the ‘Persian Holiday Tutorial’ Category

Take me out to the water!

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Tashlich must be one of my favorite (I know…I have lots of favorites) things to do between Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur.  Not only the kids get super excited to go to the lake/rive/ or in this year’s case the reservoir, but also I get to get rid of all the steal bread!


At the reservoir...such a beautiful and peaceful place...until you bring 5 boys along!

Fine, the real reason I love Tashlich is because after I do it I feel like I lost about 5 pounds…here we go again! However, this time I didn’t have to eat clean at all! All kidding aside, nothing feels better than charging a piece of bread with all the not-so-nice stuff (yep, sins) I have done during the year and literally detach myself from all that darkness while tossing it into the water for the fish to eat away…sounds kind of weird now that I think about it…I wonder what the other people standing next to us at the reservoir were thinking about us…oh well…


Here is my son reading the prayer before tossing the bread into the water

The truth is that Tashlich is the perfect time to think about those nasty things we have done and to “divorce” ourselves from them. We toss them in the water, in the form of bread, and hope the fish eat them. Fish do not have eyelids; hence they never close their eyes. I know this is going to sound even weirder, but this symbolizes how G-d is always in the look out for us; protecting us all the time.  Fish are also incredibly susceptible to fall pray of the net of the fisherman…just as we are susceptible to be caught in the net of judgment.  Tashlich makes us aware of our mistakes and rethink our deeds. Tahslich recharges my “be a good girl” batteries and gives me hope that I can always repent for the things that I have done wrong.


Hey! I caught this boy eating the bread!

Wishing you all a Gemar Chatima Tova and an easy and meaningful fast of Yom Kipppur!






For more info on Tashlich visit HERE and HERE


Eatable Parsha creations! – Korach

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

One of my boys loves making Parsha (week’s Torah portion) related creations that you can also eat…I know, who needs a piece of paper that will go to the garbage anyways…let’s make it eatable! We often serve these clever productions on our Shabbat table for dessert and the guests go nuts on them.

Here are the proud boys! We made Alef Bet cookies with the remaining dough spelling their names!

I don’t always have time to make these projects, but this week the nagging was such that I had to make time for it…so I guess nagging Mommy really works [just don’t let my kids and husband know]. This week’s parsha is Korach.  There is lots of cool bloody and graphic stuff my boys would have loved to depicted in this week’s parsha…like the earth swallowing Korach and his followers…they wanted to make a bunt cake with Lego mini figures being swallowed in the hole of the cake…boys will be boys. Somehow I persuaded them to make cookies! Of course I promissed them they could have some cookie dough…that certainly helped to convince them.

Here it is, before placing it in the over to bake.

I decided to make Aaron’s rod out of cookie dough. In this week’s parsha his staff (rod) sprouted flowers and almonds. I got the idea from this wonderful Blog called Parsha Projects. We colored cookie dough to make the flowers, leaves and staff. We also added real almonds to complete the look. To make the cookie dough look like a wooden rod simply add the coloring but do not blend all the way.

Here is a closeup for you to see the details

I hope this inspires you to make something special with you kids this Shabbat!

Here is the finished product...looks a little flat but it still works!

Shabbat shalom!


Two Persian Weddings and one GORGEOUS gown!

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

There is a saying… when it rains, it pours! Well, in my case that happened with wedding invitations. And these weddings were a “must-go-or-bust” kind of weddings. One was family and the other was a very close friend. Both on the same night; both at the same time…all the way to LA LA land!

So, staying true to my vain Venezuelan upbringing, I set out to look for a gown that could really do something special…a Kidush Hashem.  Now, for those of you that don’t know what that means (in this context) a gown that does a Kidush Hashem is something really hard to find. It has to be modest, it has to be stunning, it has to make other women think: Holy Moly! She is not showing cleavage yet she looks amazing!  (If you read carefully you will realize the ultimate irony –which you have always known if you are a woman: women, in general, don’t dress up for men, they dress up for other women! After all, we all know that most men –unless metro or gay- could care less if your dress is embedded with diamonds or made of burlap wrap.)

Here is the dress! You cannot see it very well, but the details are so amazing! It was so well made you could wear it inside-out!


I went to every single store you can imagine; from little boutiques to large expensive chain stores…I could not find my Tznius (modest) dress anywhere (you guessed it, I don’t live in Brooklyn.)  You are probably wondering, why does it have to be a modest dress? Well ladies, as you read before, I was raised in Venezuela. If you are familiar at all with Latin American culture, you know by now, that in the Latin world clothing is just an option. I grew up showing more than I left to the imagination. Ladies, do you know what feels great? When you are talking to a man and he is actually looking at your eyes and not anywhere else (yes, I know you get what I mean). Covering up certain parts of my body has transformed my life and changed the way I look at my self-worth and certainly the way other men see me as well. The only guy that’s getting the privileged is my husband, and ladies that is the ultimate aphrodisiac if you ask me (I know I am going to get in huge trouble with this Post…I know).

Here is my Persian Prince!

To be honest, covering up is not easy at all. I use to love the negative attention I would get, not to mention how beautiful the non-modest gowns are nowadays. However, every single day I struggle with tzniut (modesty) I wake up to a new meaning of why I am doing this and how much it means to my marriage and my spiritual growth.  I know it works; I just need to stick with it. I take steps back, I take steps forward, I hesitate but ultimately it is not about perfection, it is all about direction.

Rabbi Ba'alhaness married our friends last Sunday night and almost 15 years ago married us too! It was so wonderful to see him at the wedding. He is such a special man.

Now please, don’t even start thinking I am judging anyone here. I am only focusing on my personal quest. The beauty of Judaism is that nobody is forcing this on anyone (If that is not the way you feel, you need to get help) and there is room for all us in the wagon whether we are showing or not. To me, venturing into the laws of modesty should be a personal and private choice and it ranges from the length of a skirt to the even the way we talk.

Here is the groom (Chatan) looking under his bride's (Kallah) veil to make sure he does not get cheated like Yaakov got cheated when his father-in-law switched Rachel for Leah . This is a beautiful Jewish custom and makes for a great picture of this happy couple!

Just like Cinderella, I was sent a fairy godmother, only she came from…. Italy! Well, kind of. Do you know how Facebook lets you know absolutely everything everyone is doing? Well, one of my friends clicked on a Facebook page with the name of Lev Collection. So, naturally, I clicked on it as well.  I could not believe it! The website was filled with gorgeous tznius gowns. I called the owner immediately and the sweetest most irresistible young lady came on the other line: Carolina Yaghoubzadeh. She was from Milan; yes, her Italian accent is absolutely adorable, and boy did she know fashion and modesty! I was in heaven. Carolina was incredibly patient with me and made me the most stunning dress I have worn to this day. I was so lucky because the dress arrived on Friday and the wedding was on Sunday! I have no words to thank Carolina for making me feel really like royalty and for doing such a Kidush Hashem with her lovely collection of modest gowns and dresses.  There is no question I will be coming back to her over and over again! Carolina Herrera, you might be Venezuelan and super famous, but you better watch out!

The groom is placing the wedding band on the index finger of the right hand after reciting the blessing: "Behold you are sanctified unto me with this ring according to the law of Moses and the people of Israel". According to Jewish law, weddings must not utilize a double ring ceremony in which rings are exchanged. The bride can gift the groom a ring after the formal ceremony.

Persian Jewish weddings are just incredibly amazing events. First, the amount of food is overwhelming. As guests arrive they are greeted with Sushi stations, Mexican stations, fruit station, Kebab stations, Chinese station…you name it! The Ketuba (marriage contract) is signed with two witnesses and often involves only close family members. The wedding ceremony is very different than that of our Ashkenazy brothers. There is no bedeken (although this is one of my favorite parts) where the bride greets the guests. She is actually first seen as she walks down the isle and is met by her husband to be. He lifts her veil (to make sure he is not played a trick like it happened with Yaakov marrying Leah instead of Rachel) and then escorts her to the Chuppa (wedding canopy).  Under the Chuppa the Rabbi makes all the blessings. The ring is placed in the index finger, the Ketuba (marriage contract) is read and the seven blessings are recited.  The wedding ends with the groom smashing a glass to remember there can be no complete happiness as long as we have no temple in Jerusalem.

Persians have the custom to serve wedding guests fresh fruits, sweets and tea between the ceremony and dinner.

After the ceremony a lavish meal takes place and dancing with the bride and groom are a priority. Every night, during the first week after the wedding, the bride and groom are invited to dinners to celebrate their union. These dinners are called Sheva Brachot. A Jewish wedding is filled with emotion, beauty, meaning and commitment. There is nothing more sacred that a bride and groom becoming one under the wedding canopy! Mazel Tov to the lovely couples and may Hashem always bless you with much health, happiness, livelihood and pride from each other!


This wedding's colors were "white on white" and it was truly spectacular!

If you want to see more pics, visit my facebook page and “like” me, thanks!

With love!


I love fruit about you?





SHAVUOT=Cheese Cake?!

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

So, what is this Shavuot thing all about? Do we just eat dairy food, gain a few pounds and call it a day? Well, nope! Shavuot is probably THE most important holiday for the Jewish Nation…after all, without the giving of the Torah (Bible) there would be no Jewish Nation…do you want to know more? Check out this amazing Shavuot crash course at, know all the facts about Shavuot and be the envy of all of your friends!

Shavuot Crash Course from

Wait! What about food! Here is my favorite Persian dip – Borani Esfanaaj– for you to enjoy over Shavuot…and if you like it, don’t forget to buy my book! Click HERE for the best price ever!

Happy Holiday! Hag Sameach!


Yogurt with Spinach

Borani Esfanaaj

This is my favorite dairy Persian dish! It is just so easy to make and so delicious! I feel so healthy when I eat this dish. It is obviously a lot more convenient to make if you already have frozen spinach in the freezer! Spinach can be hard to clean and check for insect infestation, so make sure to get the kosher frozen kind, such as Bodek brand.


2 cups onions, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced

3 tablespoons canola oil

¼ teaspoon turmeric

1 (16-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

2 cups low-fat plain yogurt



1. In a small saucepan, fry onions, turmeric, and garlic in oil until slightly golden (about 10 minutes).

2. Add spinach, salt, and pepper and cook for additional 5 minutes, mixing well. Set aside to cool.

3. Once cooled, add the yogurt and mix well.

4. Serve in a bowl and decorate with fresh or dried mint. This dish is absolutely delicious accompanied by lavash bread and potato chips.


Yield: 3 cups


Passover Persian-style in

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

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.”)

Chanuka: The Festival of Lights!

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Just saying the word Chanuka gives me the munchies for a steaming hot latke and a few presents, of course! I know, we always give ourselves much guilt over what we indulge on Chanuka…just give it up, eat and have a good time! Life is way too short to start counting calories on these special days!

Here is one of my delicious boys helping mami clean our Chanukiah (Chanuka menorah)

Chanuka is a celebration of freedom. On Chanuka we commemorate many amazing miracles. At the time Chanuka was instituted, Jerusalem was in the hands of the Syrians, who lived the Greek way…I guess this must mean the soldiers were tall, dark, handsome and wearing togas!  Our tiny army was able to defeat them with the guidance of Yehuda Maccabee and we were able to take back the Temple that had been ruined. The Jews were able to find just enough oil to perform the rededication of the Temple (the Hebrew word for dedication is Chanuka…did you know that?), and that oil lasted eight days. The Jews were once again free to practice their religion, vanquish assimilation, and discredit Greek “wisdom” –no offense to all my Greek friends! We light the Chanukiah (Chanuka menorah) to remember the rededication of the Temple.

Here I am teaching the kids the correct way to place the candles…read on to find out!

Today, we celebrate Chanuka by doing the very things the Syrian Greeks forbade us to do! We learn Torah and rejoice by singing beautiful Jewish melodies. Some give the children money or little presents to reward them for all the mitzvot (commandments) they perform. We eat lots of delicious oily food to remember the miracle of finding the oil. And last, we light a chanukiah in our front windows. This way, everyone is to witness that we have remained and triumphed and our lives are devoted to Judaism more now than ever!

You can almost read his thoughts, “FIRE! What else can I do with this fire!!”  Boys will be boys!

The lights in the chanukiah are set up from right to left (as you face the candelabra) but lit from left to right. That is, on the first night, the light is placed to the far right on the chanukiah; on the second day, we place the first light in that same spot, the far right, then add a candle to its left. But we light the second candle first. Persians (and most Sephardim) light only one chanukiah for the whole family.

A delicious Sufganiah…worth every single calorie!

Chanuka Menu

This time of year many friends and family members drop by to indulge in Chanuka celebrations. During the eight days, I probably fry hundreds of latkes and the dinners are very informal in nature. While latkes are not the traditional Chanuka food eaten in Iran, Persians have wonderful fried dishes that are easy enough to make at the last minute in case an extra handful of friends show up! I have (of course) included Sufganiot, Israeli-style doughnuts, in the cookbook. Sufganiot are not traditional Persian Jewish food, but if they are filled with vanilla pastry cream they become Pirashkee.  Besides, how can anyone survive Chanuka without them?! Here is a list of foods that would make anyone’s mouth salivate on Chanuka!

Persian Potato Latkes—Kookoo Sbzamini

Sour Apple Latkes—Kookoo Sib’e Torsh

Traditional Chanuka Latkes—Levivot

Jelly Doughnuts and PirashkeeSufganiot

Golden Dough Spheres Soaked in Rose Water Syrup—Bamieh

This is Bamieh…I like to call it the “Persian Churro!”…absolutely delectable!

I wish you all a very happy Chanuka!

Spread the love!


Sukkot: The Festival of Booths

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

I like tend think of this as the “forgotten holiday.” Celebrating Sukkot is not very popular in some circles, BUT is is so much fun! Just reading the word “Sukkot” makes me happy! If anyone has ever been in a sukka they know what I am talking about. Yom Kippur has just passed and we have been forgiven by Hashem; we have triumphed! The time to celebrate is here and we celebrate big. Celebrating is even a commandment in this holiday. We build nothing less than a special hut, outside our home, to invite family and friends over to eat themselves silly on scrumptious food. These temporary dwellings are to commemorate the very sukkot that Hashem crafted for our ancestors in the desert. There were clouds of glory protecting us from all sides from the dangerous elements in the desert. Being in a sukka today not only reminds us of Hashem’s generosity during those hard times, but also brings us back out into nature and forces us to put all our trust in the Ruler of the world, prompting us to be grateful for the warmth of our sturdy and stable homes.

Here are two of my kids helping set-up our Sukka! They are so proud and excited!

The Persian Sukka and How We Shake the Lulav!

Many Persians are known for decorating their sukkot with beautiful Persian Rugs (making sure to roll them back home when rain starts to fall!) I have seen exquisite sofres (tablecloths) displayed on the walls of Persian sukkot. However, the most interesting and absolutely adorable decoration I have witnessed (besides children-made décor, of course) are cone-shaped cups hanging from the schach (ceiling of the sukka) filled with a delicious mixture of chickpea flour and sugar. It is customary to hang these treats for the kids to enjoy at the end of the holiday….as long as they have survived the squirrels! Below you can find the recipe and the way I use this beautiful tradition.

Here is the Sukka…half-way there.  This is great bonding time with the kids!

Have you ever seen a Persian shaking a lulav? In case you might not know, a lulav (palm tree branch) is bundled with willow and myrtle. When I didn’t know any better, I though it was some type of musical instrument! Along with the lulav, a beautiful and aromatic citron (etrog) is shaken as well. It is the most expensive citrus fruit one can buy. If you haven’t seen a Persian shaking the lulav, get ready for a surprise! They point their lulavim and turn their bodies toward the direction to which they shake them. In general, Sephardic women do not say a blessing when shaking the lulav.

Here is the Sukka! Finished and decorated! I love it because it is very “home-made” and it was the hard work of my family! My aunt Julie Simnegar makes the most beautiful Sukkot for grown-up taste.  Her Sukka is the most beautiful Sukka in all of LA with velvet draperies and hanging flower arrangements! I must post a pic soon! She is an extremely talented florist and the owner of the popular Bouvardia Flowers and Gifts (310) 470-9100

Sukkot Chick Pea and Sugar Treats

Sar’e Gandak

Here is a little sweet bundle for the Sukka!

These are little bundles of chick pea flour and powdered sugar that are hung in the Sukka at the beginning of the Hag and eaten when the Sukka is put away. My mother-in-law has beautiful childhood memories of reaching up to these bundles and eating the treasure inside! Doesn’t it sound great? Well, maybe that worked in Shiraz, but we live in a different climate in the US. Where we live, it rains every single Sukkot. Also, the squirrels would have a feast the second I hang the treats! So, I decided to hang them right before the Sukka is taken down. The kids have a blast looking for them between all the decorations! I like using white paper cone cups, which the kids decorate. This is a great way to reward the children for helping out while putting the Sukka away.  You can also buy the cones already made or make them yourself with any paper you have at home.  See this link for ideas and a good template. If your kids don’t like chickpea flour, you can fill these treat with colored sugar or any treat you’d like!

½ cup chick pea flour

½ cup powdered confectioner’s sugar

paper-cone cups or cone-shaped favor boxes

1. Combine chick pea flour and sugar and fill each cone cup with approximately 2 tablespoons of the mixture.

2. Wrap in foil, attach a string, and hang from the schach in the Sukka!

3. To serve, pluck cones from the schach, give one to each child (or help yourself to one!). Snip or tear off the pointy end of the cone and suck out the tasty powder.

Yield: 4-5 treats, depending on cone size.

Sukkot is a great time to spend with family and friends! In this pic my kids and their cousins are making “eatable” Sukkot out of crackers, pretzel sticks and sour sticks! The “glue” is marshmallow fluff!

Have a wonderful Sukkot everyone!


Yom Kippur – The Day of Repentance

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Click here to find out when Yom Kippur starts and ends in your location.

Fasting is very much a part of the Jewish religion. Yom Kippur is the ultimate Jewish fast.  This day, we fast from sunset to the following day after three stars appear. This year Yom Kippur coincides with Shabbat.  We know Shabbat is the most important holiday and fasting is prohibited.  However, when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat we fast.  Yom Kippur is also referred as “Shabbat Shabatot” (the Shabbat of Shabbats). Hence, it precedes Shabbat and fasting is commanded. Some people, like my husband, also observe a “fast of words.”  Keeping silent for a long period of time is a great exercise that makes one appreciate the gift of speech.

This is my son making an angry face…”Mami, do I really have to fast when I grow up?” How can I live without green apples (his favorite) for a whole day?!

But why should we fast? What is the purpose? After all, fasting is painful and difficult. Well, let me explain. Putting a child in a time-out or reprimanding that child for negative behavior can be difficult for the child and the parent as well. However, if you are a mother, you know that the purpose of a time-out (for the most part!) is to have the child isolated in a quiet place to think about his/her actions and rectify the negative behavior. If the rectification and the repentance are not there, the time-out is worthless. Similarly, Hashem is our Father and sometimes we know we need a time-out. However, while the time-out (in this case, fasting) is not easy, the real purpose is for rectification and repentance of our behavior. Fasting gives us that certain amount of physical pain needed to get in touch with our spiritual self and get back on track. At the end of a fast, we should focus on how much we learned about our potential in life and have a plan of action on how to achieve it.  But, like with everything in Judaism, there is so much more to it. On Yom Kippur we are guaranteed to be forgiven for our sins as long as we repent.  Hence, we are like angels (angels do not sin).  Since we are like angles – beings with no physical needs – we also abstain from our regular physical needs (eating, drinking, etc.)  There are some people that even wear a white outfit on Yom Kippur because it is said that angels wear this color.

I love this picture.  It is just so genuine.  I hope we all have this clarity and  authenticity this Yom Kippur. This photo is curtsy of Hebrew Discovery Center, Woodland Hills CA.

Besides abstaining from food and drink, there are also other prohibitions that apply on Yom Kippur. One is not to wear leather shoes, bathe, apply ointments (like creams or lotions) or have intimacy. Since Yom Kippur is the “Shabbat of Shabbats” we also abstain from all the activities forbidden over Shabbat (like driving, cooking etc.)  If you would like tips on making your fast easier please click here.

The meal preceding Yom Kippur is supposed to be quite the feast!  Indulging before Yom Kippur is even considered to be a mitzvah (commandment). Some Persian families choose to consume Ab Goosht (Persian chicken soup) before the Yom Kippur fast.  At our home, we indulge in many Persian dishes.  In my husband’s family people tend to break every fast with a warm cup of sweetened water with a drizzle of rose water. Some other families break their fasts with Persian Halvah, while others break their fasts with a mixture of chilled grated apples with a drizzle of rose water and sugar.  After breaking the fast, everyone joins is a joyous meal!  Yom Kippur is actually the day of joy! We have repented for our misdeeds and have been forgiven.  Nothing can bring more joy than a new beginning, and Yom Kippur is the day to start fresh and anew!

Ab Goosh (Persian Chicken Soup) is traditional eaten by Persians before the fast of Yom Kippur. I share the recipe is my cookbook!

If you are fasting, may you have an easy and meaningful fast! Sukkot is around the corner…I can’t wait to post some pics of our Sukka!

G’mar Chatima Tova!

Reyna Simnegar

Rosh Hashana – The New Year Festival

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

The Jewish New Year is a grand celebration for Persians! But how did this feast start?  What is this holiday about? If your answer is “apples and honey” there are lots to learn my friend!

The first day of Rosh Hashana is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve.  Isn’t that crazy?  And all this time I thought it was “The Jewish New Year!” If you think that is insane listen to this: On Rosh Hashana day Adam and Eve were created, they sinned -no time wasted here- and they were judged by G-d.  From that day forward, Rosh Hashana became the day that every single being gets judged by G-d HIMSELF.  Which is kind of cool because G-d loves us so much (just like a father/son love) we are able to really impress him by changing ourselves (if only that was an easy task). The tricks are repentance, praying (talking to G-d) and giving to others (charity). If you want to watch two inspirational videos that will really set the mood for the holiday click here and here.

This is the Persian Rosh Hashana Seder plate

Rosh Hashana is the day we get judged on a personal level. However, since on this day G-d judges us for transgressions committed against Him and not against other people, it is left to each person to call all those he might have wronged during the year and ask for mechilah (forgiveness). I admit this is very hard to do, but it leaves you feeling light as a feather! Try it!

This is Ariel (my oldest son) after asking for forgiveness…it leaves you exhausted, it is not easy to do, but it is worth it!

Can you believe Persians have an actual Rosh Hashana Seder! Back in Iran you could have seen a lamb’s head staring at you from the table, but today in America it is very hard to find. Although this year I was very lucky to find it! Thank you Specialty Provisions.  If you lack of a lamb’s head, a less gruesome item is used…a cooked tongue, of course! (Talk about getting rid of Lashon Hara -the evil tongue, i.e., gossip- for the rest of the year!) However, on a more serious note, Rosh Hashana is a special time to get closer to Hashem (G-d). It is said that in these times the King of Kings is more available than ever. No wonder the Rosh Hashana Seder is based on saying several “Yehi Ratzons” over symbolic foods. “Yehi Ratzon” means “May it be Your will”; we are asking Hashem to fulfill our desires through blessings. Many of the “Yehi Ratzons” are plays on words, so it is not very easy to translate them. Several Sephardic prayer books contain the Yehi Ratzons and their translations, along with explanations of the puns.  Here is a nice link to a list with the blessings and explanations. This list is not 100% accurate for Persian Jews, so contact your local Orthodox Persian Rabbi if you need guidance.

This is my son Yosef trying to blow a Shofar that is actually bigger than him! Thank you to the Israel Book Shop in Brookline, MA for lending us this gorgeous Shofar to take this picture.  It was close to a miracle, but I gave it back in one piece!

Here are the symbolic foods along with the Yehi Ratzons so you can celebrate Rosh Hashana à la Persian! This Seder is to be performed after Kiddush and before the blessing over the bread, so be sure to make the pertinent blessings on the different kinds of foods before eating them.

  1. Apple and honey (The ever-popular Rosh Hashana staple…my kids’ favorite!)
  2. Leeks (Tear a piece apart with your hands. Some people have the custom of eating it as well.)
  3. Zucchini (Simply fry it in a little oil and sprinkle with salt.)
  4. Black-eyed peas (I use canned peas and simply add caramelized onions.)
  5. Lamb’s head or tongue (Persians love tongue…I can’t even look at it. See recipe for tong, below.)
  6. Beets (I buy them canned, already cut up. Just add salt or make the beet salad that will be in my book.)
  7. Dates (Make sure to check inside for bugs! I have even found worms in them!)
  8. Lung (Lungs are hard to find in America. [Thank G-d!] Some Persian Jews use popcorn for this Yehi Ratzon. We use fish, especially if Rosh Hashana falls on Friday night. Some people, in the absence of lungs, skip this blessing).
  9. Pomegranate arils (One of the highlights of the evening for Persians!)

After these blessings have been recited, the meal continues as usual. Since I consider the symbolic foods a fine appetizer, I serve dinner right after the challah is portioned out and the Yehi Ratzons have been said. As a good omen to have a sweet new year, many Persian Jews indulge in sweet foods on Rosh Hashana instead of the classic sour dishes. So, make sure to skip the dried lemon when making Persian Chicken Soup (Ab Goosht) for Rosh Hashana! Check out the delicious menu I suggest in the cookbook!

Rosh Hashana Dinner Menu


Symbolic Foods


Persian Chicken Soup with Dried Lemon and Cumin Seed — Ab Goosht (Rosh Hashana version)

Persian Steamed White Rice— Chelo

Rice with Orange and Carrots—Shirin Polo

Lamb with Prunes Stew

Potato Salad with Hard-Boiled Eggs—Sald’e Olivie


Persian Cram Puffs—Noon Chamei

Walnut-Stuffed Dates—Ranginak

Rosh Hashana Tongue with Tomato and Mushrooms


You have to trust me when I tell you that I have eaten the grossest things in the world! Every summer my family would take a trip to Zaraza; the town where my father was born. Many members of the family would gather together at the family farm and cook many interesting dishes. Have you hear of a stew made from an animal that is related to rodents called capybara? How about turtle quiches? How about crocodile or iguana stew? I have eaten them all! However, I never, ever ate tongue! It was not until I became acquainted with Persians that I was put to the task of eating tongue once a year on Rosh Hashana! I hope you enjoy this recipe and the many more that I am sharing in the cookbook.  It is actually very delicious!

Tongue Broth

1 beef tongue

water as needed

1 onion, diced

4 garlic cloves


3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

dash turmeric

1 (13-ounce) can mushrooms sliced or stems and pieces, drained

1 cup reserved tongue broth

3 tablespoons tomato paste

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

fresh flat leaf parsley, for garnish

  1. Place the tongue into a 6-quart saucepan and cover with water until it reaches about 3 inches above the meat. Add the onion and garlic and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 3½ to 4 hours, checking periodically and using a small strainer or slotted spoon to remove the scum that accumulates on the surface of the water.
  2. Remove tongue from broth and set aside to cool. Reserve one cup broth and set aside. To make sauce, sauté olive oil, onion, and turmeric in a skillet until onion is translucent. Add mushrooms and toss together for one minute. Add tongue broth, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and cook for about 3 minutes.
  3. While the tongue is still warm, peel the surface skin off and discard. Cut tongue into ¼-inch-thick slices and arrange on a serving platter. Pour the mushroom sauce on top and sprinkle with chopped parsley for garnish.

Yield: 6-8 servings